Tackling the real problem in Oakland

Amid the entire hubbub surrounding the Oakland Raiders search for a new head coach, Langston Walker voided the final year of his deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Good riddance.

Walker's presence on the line at right tackle did nothing to settle a unit that surrendered a league-worst 72 sacks on the season, nine more than the Detroit Lions and 57 more than league-leading Indianapolis.

An underrated aspect of the entire offense, the play of the line is pivotal to success, particularly in the red zone.

Oakland's offense, essentially, was nullified on third down with quarterbacks taking a pounding and throwing a prayer off their back foot – and Oakland placed second in the NFL with 24 interceptions thrown.

If there is one area where futility affects everything else it is along the offensive line. If the unit is failing to pass protect, odds are pretty good it is also failing to get a good push. The 3.9 yards per carry they helped the running back stable average fell in the bottom half of the league.

For all the talk of getting a quarterback, it will mean nothing if the line play is not shored up – and if proof is needed, just ask David Carr.

Pressure has a funny way of making any quarterback look bad. While the quarterbacks deserve their share of the blame, adding a stalwart along the offensive line could bring the Oakland offense back up to the land of prestige. Remember, it was just a year ago, under Kerry Collins, when the Raiders passing offense was in the top half of the league in yards per game – placing tenth. They also had 21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and the sacks were a more manageable 45.

Walker turned in a terrible season. His quickness was sapped and he did little to fend off the opposition. The same can be said on the other side with Robert Gallery, exposed by better pass rushers and failing to get good kickback in his sets.

Walker leaving would open the door for Gallery's reinsertion on the right side and a new mammoth tackle for the left.

If the Raiders really want to help their offense, Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas should get the call.

"This is exactly where I wanted to be," Thomas said after another solid season. The behemoth is considered a top-five pick and would do instant wonders for the Raiders, securing a position that has caused nothing but strife.

Thomas has broken every Wisconsin record for athleticism, except the bench press. But that number has also swelled this year and he challenged the mark of power.

"Joe Thomas is one of the top players in college football," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said.

To secure Thomas, the Raiders could potentially flip with Detroit, a quarterback needy team, and pick up an extra draft pick or could drop a little further down to pick up even more picks.

One thing is certain, if the Silver and Black tabs a new quarterback and doesn't fix the offensive line, he will be having nightmares of tasting turf.


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