NAPA, Calif. (AP) Derek Carr was only on the field for two series in the Raiders' preseason-opening win over the St. Louis Rams. That was more than enough time for the second-year quarterback to realize how much better his supporting cast is.
That includes up front, particularly at center, where Rodney Hudson is at the heart of Oakland's revamped offensive line.
Despite having new starters at three positions, the Raiders starters held up well in the opener and didn't give up a single sack during their brief stint against the Rams. That's a small sample size but Carr thinks it could be an indication of things to come.
''I had time to sit back there and go through my reads,'' Carr said Wednesday. ''If we can keep doing that . we're going to go as they go, and that's every team in the NFL. I'm excited about them. I think they're the best.''
Hudson is certainly being paid like one of the best.
A second-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011, Hudson signed a $44.5 million, five-year contract with the Raiders in the offseason. The deal, which includes $20 million in guarantees, made Hudson the highest-paid player on Oakland's roster.
The Raiders didn't have a problem paying that much for a player who has started 31 games the past two seasons and who allowed just two sacks in 2014.
''It basically all starts with him,'' coach Jack Del Rio said. ''Every play starts with him. I knew that he was, I think, an emerging player in the league, having gone against him twice a year. I felt like he was one of, if not the best center in the league and I had a lot of respect for his game. We were able to acquire him and I'm very excited about that.''
Since joining the Raiders, Hudson has made his presence felt in a variety of ways.
Long before practice begins each day, the 26-year-old goes from the team hotel to the weight room. There, he begins a meticulous regimen of stretching then gets in a quick workout before joining his teammates on the field for another three hours of practice.
As the weeks have gone on, Hudson has noticed some of the other offensive linemen following his lead.
''One of our strengths is we're all working together,'' Hudson said. ''We have a close-knit group. Everybody's working together, trying to help each other out. That's important. The older guys are helping the younger guys and we're just going to keep pushing forward.''
The Raiders allowed only 23 sacks in 2014 in spite of Carr having very little help around him.
General manager Reggie McKenzie emphasized improving Carr's situation in the offseason, pointing to the obvious holes at receiver and in the backfield. Yet when free agency began, one of the first moves Oakland made was to sign Hudson.
''I've been in three or four offenses in my career, and a lot of them have similarities and a lot of them have differences,'' Hudson said. ''I think this is a good fit for me.''
Hudson finished last season as the third-ranked center in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Only six-time Pro Bowl selection Nick Mangold of the New York Jets and Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys graded out higher than Hudson.
''He's a hard worker,'' left guard Gabe Jackson said. ''To have a guy like that, that has the credibility he does, it makes it a good fit knowing you're playing alongside a person like that.''
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