In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the inaugural winner is ...
Offensive Line of the Week: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders' offensive line was one of the most talked-about units this offseason. Oakland has made three major O-line signings over the last two years -- adding center Rodney Hudson and left guard Kelechi Osemele, as well as re-upping left tackle Donald Penn -- and the vision for a dominant presence is starting to come to fruition, as the Black and Silver left the Saints black and blue following Sunday's 35-34 road win.
The main theme for the Raiders in this game: finish. They finished blocks. They finished runs. Then, they finished the game. It wasn't an easy task, either. Oakland was playing on the road in New Orleans, a city that is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and the Raiders' O-line only had one false start (Matt McCants) in an extremely loud dome despite being in the silent count for the entire game. The offensive line allowed six hurries, one quarterback hit and zero sacks Derek Carr's 40 dropbacks.
People call New Orleans the Big Easy, but the Raiders' injury adversity up front flew in the face of that nickname. Starting right tackle Menelik Watson exited the game with a groin injury in the second quarter. McCants, who saw action in two games in 2015 and logged just three starts in the previous three NFL seasons, came in to replace Watson. In the third quarter, McCants went down with a knee injury, and the Raiders had to shuffle the offensive line around because Austin Howard, normally the backup tackle, was inactive due to an ankle injury from the preseason. Penn shifted over and played his first NFL snaps at right tackle, Osemele moved from left guard to left tackle and Jon Feliciano played at left guard. The Raiders, who had seven active linemen for Sunday's contest, were one injury away from OL coach Mike Tice having to strap on a helmet.
Still, Oakland ended up getting three rushing touchdowns by three different players: Latavius Murray from 6 yards out; Jamize Olawale from the 2-yard line; and Jalen Richard on an explosive 75-yard TD run. Two notable blocks came during the touchdown runs by Murray and Richard. During Murray's score, Penn had an impressive block, knocking defensive tackle Tyeler Davison to the ground. Later in the game, on Richard's eye-popping fourth-quarter run, Osemele -- who continuously punished guys and was impressive throughout the game with his hustle and versatility -- secured and pancake-blocked linebacker Craig Robertson.
In addition, Oakland's offense scored touchdowns on all three of its fourth-quarter drives despite the injuries and shifts to the line.
Other notable O-line units in Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers: There were only two 100-yard rushers in Week 1, and this offensive line helped 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams become the league leader on Monday night. Williams, starting in place of suspended star Le'Veon Bell, finished with 26 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 22-point win at Washington.
New York Giants: The Giants' O-line allowed just three hurries, no quarterback hits and zero sacks on 30 dropbacks in a win at Dallas on Sunday. New York took valuable time off the clock by running the ball in its final drive of the game, a drive in which the team had seven consecutive rushing plays for 40 yards -- taking nearly three minutes off the clock. Time management proved to be a BIG difference in the outcome.