Position outlook: Offensive tackle

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, we look at offensive tackle:

Looking back: When the Oakland Raiders made a big splash by taking Robert Gallery with the second overall pick in the draft, it was generally assumed that Langston Walker was the only offensive lineman assured of a starting job.

The Raiders original plan was to slide then-incumbent left tackle Barry Sims to guard in order to put Gallery at left tackle. Walker, meanwhile, was tabbed to replace the retired Lincoln Kennedy at right tackle. While Kennedy had become increasing slowed by injuries, his leadership in the locker-room was missed.

Sims, meanwhile, threw a big wrench into the Raiders plans by playing well enough to beat out Gallery for the starting left tackle spot. Walker started the season-opener against Pittsburgh at right tackle. Gallery alternated between right tackle and left guard before the Raiders replaced Walker in favor of Gallery at right tackle.

Sims did not have a Pro Bowl season by any means but should be commended for his improved play in 2004. Gallery might not be next Anthony Munoz just yet but, despite not playing his natural position, he clearly showed why he warranted being taken with the No. 2 overall pick.

Walker, who was the Raiders second-round pick in 2002, has the ability to be a starter but except for starting the season-opener, he was mostly an extra blocking tight end.

Looking ahead: The Raiders could go back to their original plan of having Gallery and Walker start as the tackle tandem. Gallery has proven to be a solid foundation at one tackle while Walker has proven to be a capable starter as a fill-in.

While Sims performed better than expected in 2004, it stands to reason that at 30-years old, he probably has about three more effective seasons in him assuming he stays healthy. The only other tackle by trade on the roster is 6-8, 340-pound Chad Slaughter, who has played very little in his three seasons as a Raider. Slaughter is a free agent but since he has played so little, he's not likely to garner much attention from other teams.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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