Raiders linemen making a difference
ALAMEDA — The Oakland Raiders were intent on strengthening their offensive line.
At the season’s onset, handing 26-year-old Trent Brown the most lucrative contract ever granted to an offensive lineman in NFL’s history — four years, $66 million with $36 million guaranteed — certainly emphasized the front office’s priority to give quarterback Derek Carr some room to breathe.
Some offensive linemen donned sweaters that read “Carr Insurance” after practice on Friday. They’re on the same page — the hefty investment some and patience with others is starting to paying off.
The 5-4 Raiders are set to face the win-less Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday a half-game for first place behind a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs team in the AFC West. Carr’s game is starting to harmonize with Gruden’s West Coat Offense. PFF ranks his 93.2 passing grade as the third-highest on crossing routes — in other words he is efficient in the short pass game built into Gruden’s offense.
In 2018, Pro Football Focus estimated the Raiders’ offensive line the 25th-worst pressure rate in the NFL. Heading into Week 11 this season, the Raiders have jumped up to the third-best pressure rate, per PFF. With Brown on board, the O-line has a 4.4% sack rate, which ranks fourth in the NFL behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys. Carr has been sacked just 12 times.
“Curveballs to throw, weight distribution, little things that help a lot,” Raiders tackle Kolton Miller said of Brown’s little advice nuggets. Alongside Brown, Miller’s made significant improvements. Miller’s fourth-worst 48.2 PFF grade in 2018 has crept up to a 64.3 rank this season, which is about league average.