Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t been exactly sure who is going to be lining up in front of him on the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line this season, not only from game-to-game, but sometimes from series-to-series within a game because of injuries.
The O-line began playing musical chairs during training camp, as Pro Bowl tackle Trent Brown didn't show up until several days before the season opener.
However, the offensive line with a revolving door has kept Carr upright for the most part, and helped the Silver and Black to a 5-3 record halfway through the season.
And he doesn’t worry about who upfront is blocking for him.
“You know what, I came into the season with that mindset,” said Carr, who has passed for 2,002 yards and 16 touchdowns with only two interceptions while completing 69.8 percent of his passes in the eight games. “I think I talked about it a little bit maybe before the season or one of the first games where it’s just like, you’re already equipped. You already have what you need.
“It doesn’t matter who’s where, the job doesn’t change, the goal is still the same. (General Manager Mike) Mayock, he tells me every game day, ‘Circumstances may change, but the job doesn’t change.’ And I love that, it’s the same mindset I carried into the season was, I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff. Those of you that have been around, you all know. We’ve all been through it together a little bit. I feel like we’ve got some bumps and bruises together, right? But at the end of the day, nobody cares.”
Last Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raiders played without starting tackles Brown (Covid-19), who has played only one game this season, and Kolton Miller (ankle injury), while starting guard Richie Incognito (Achilles injury) has been on Injured Reserve since the second week of the season.
Denzelle Good has stepped in for Incognito, while Sam Young and Brandon Parker have taken over the tackle spots, and all were instrumental in a 31-26 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It doesn’t matter if you are on your fourth tackle,” Carr said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re switching guys from tackle to guard, left to right and right to left. Nobody cares because at the end of the day we’re going to play the game, did you win, or did you lose? And I guess our whole team has taken that mindset and that approach. If we can do that, then it doesn’t matter. It’s really good for the team aspect that says, we don’t care.
“Coach (Jon Gruden) handed out two game balls to Sam Young and Brandon Parker, handed two out to two defensive guys. It was like, ‘Heck yeah, man. That’s awesome.’ And showed some clips of stuff that they’re doing. I think the Cleveland game, Brandon wasn’t even supposed to play and all of sudden you’re up and active and you got to go in. What they are able to accomplish under those circumstances is pretty impressive.”
All-Pro center Rodney Hudson and guard Gabe Jackson, both savvy veterans, have been the constants for the Raiders upfront so far this season, and in addition to their normal stellar play has helped the younger players to keep the line in sync.
Gruden can’t say enough about his O-line.
“Yeah, I mean (Jackson) dislocated his elbow our first year here and then last year he dislocated his knee cap in training camp and never was healthy,” Gruden told reporters. “This man, if he’s not the best right guard in football, show me the man. I wouldn’t trade Gabe for nothing.
“We think Rodney Hudson and Denzelle, the inside guys are playing great. Obviously, we hope one day to have Trent and Kolton back on the field. In the time being, that’s the strength of this offense, the quarterback, and the interior linemen. Boy, they make the guys next to them play better. They really set the standard here. They know how to prepare. They know how to compete. I’m just proud of Gabe and really happy he’s healthy.”
Not only has the line protected Carr well, but it has opened holes for running backs, Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker.
Jacobs, who rushed for a franchise rookie record of 1,150 yards last season, leads the Raiders with 588 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 2020. Booker, his backup, has 223 yards rushing, a 6.8-yard average, and ran 31 yards for a touchdown against the Chargers with Jackson and Hudson clearing the way on a sweep to the right.
“It’s great,” Booker said. “Them two big dogs, they’re pulling around like on that run I had, the touchdown run, and I’m like, ‘Oh man.’ The Red Sea just opened up and I’ve got two big dogs running in front of me.”
Said Jacobs: “We know we’re going to get the ball most of the time at the beginning of the game, and we know that we’ve got to close the game. So just having that mentality, we think that every week we’re going to run good.”
No matter which big dogs are leading the way.
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