Sizing up the offensive line

The addition of LaMont Jordan was supposed to make the Raiders offense dangerous. But inconsistent line play offered little help for the bruising back. Entering the year, however, the unit was seen as one of the strong points.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Barry Sims, LG Langston Walker, C Jake Grove, RG Ron Stone, RT Robert Gallery. Backups - G Brad Badger, C Adam Treu, T Chad Slaughter, G Corey Hulsey, T Brad Lekkerkerker.

The Raiders got a hugely disappointing overall effort from a unit that was supposed to be a strength. Sims has always had trouble when isolated on speed rushers, but his overall performance slipped as well. Yet with acceleration and signing bonus figures totaling nearly $6 million, Sims is unlikely to be cut.

Walker moved from tackle to guard but had his season cut short by a serious abdominal injury that required emergency surgery. Walker is still a work in progress inside.

Grove was shuttled from center to guard because of injuries along the line, and he had knee troubles that ruined his effectiveness in his second year. The club would like to see him settle in at center for a full season.

Stone played all 16 games, but Raiders were vulnerable to heavy pressure over the middle, and the time may have come for a younger, faster player. He's a possible salary-cap casualty with a cap figure of more than $3 million.

Gallery did not step up and have a second year in the manner of highly drafted tackles such as Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden or Orlando Pace - names that he was associated with coming out of Iowa. Not a flop, but not a star either. The Raiders expect much, much more in 2006.

Badger had eight starts after Walker went down and did not distinguish himself, struggling through games and practices with a bad knee.

Treu remains a reliable long snapper whose primary value is as a backup, but he ended up starting 10 times. He can be overpowered by the bigger nose tackles.

Slaughter, an unrestricted free agent, seldom plays except on special teams but played well for a short time in the season finale against the Giants' Michael Strahan.

Hulsey, an unrestricted free agent, never got a good look even though the guards were struggling - indicating he is strictly a fringe player.

Lekkerkerker was put on the 53-man roster from the practice squad but was active only once, seeing no action.

There could be some transition along the line. The team would like to infuse more youth into the lineup to grow. One thing working in favor of many of these players is the new head coach may want to see what he has before making decisions. If it is a coach that is already working in some capacity within the organization, the players could be at a disadvantage.


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