Talk to any football coach and they’ll tell you the same thing: Want to win in the NFL? Win in the trenches. The Raiders did that last year better than almost anyone in the NFL. You could argue Oakland had the 2nd best offensive line after the Cowboys.
The Raiders rebuilt their team starting in the trenches, and in 2016 Derek Carr was sacked a league-low 18 times, and the rushing attacked was 6th in the league with 120 yards per game. Carr led the league in sack percentage (2.8), he went from promising QB to MVP candidate.
A key cog in that line: Veteran left tackle Donald Penn. Now 34, Penn has been one of the best run blockers in the NFL over the last five years. But he’s holding out. Fans are angry with Penn because they know his value; if you’ve followed the story closely, you’d probably agree the holdout is justified.
Penn wants to be paid like a Top 10 player at his position. It’s not an unreasonable request. The Raiders say they’ll only negotiate with Penn if he shows up at camp. He’s not showing up until he has a new deal.
Why Penn could win: Derek Carr suffered a broken leg last year that ruined Oakland’s season. Now, Carr – whom they just paid – is going into the season with a new left tackle and right tackle (Austin Howard was released).
In their place from last year’s historically good season: Rookie David Sharpe (4th round pick, Florida) and veteran Marshall Newhouse. I’m not even sure I’d play Carr in the preseason until this is sorted out.