Oakland Raiders new general manager, Reggie McKenzie, did not wait long before he began addressing what he believed were the biggest areas of concern for the Raiders heading into the off-season. Shortly after free agency began, McKenzie signed thee cornerbacks and an offensive guard to shore up the Raiders secondary and offensive line. He then cut incumbant right guard Cooper Carlisle in order to re-sign him to a much more affordable contract, while also re-signing tackle Khalif Barnes.
Now, McKenzie has revealed exactly how the Raiders coaching staff plans on organizing the offensive line for the 2012 season. In an interview with Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group, McKenzie discussed the fact that he believes the coaching staff plans to play newly acquired guard Mike Brisiel at the right guard position, move Cooper Carlisle to the left guard position and move former starting left guard, Stefan Wisniewski inside to start at center.
This move came as somewhat of a shock to me at first, however, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I would have prefered to have kept Wisniewski at left guard where he played so well alongside left tackle Jared Veldheer, started Briesel at right guard and go find a new starter at center. However, given the Raiders cap situation, it is understandable that McKenzie preferred moving Young Wiz to center because it is cheaper to go out and find another guard than it is to go and find a new center.
In addition, with the Raiders moving to a zone blocking scheme, veteran guard Cooper Carlisle has added value. Carlisle is a veteran with lots of experience as a starting offensive lineman. However, the last couple of seasons have seen Carlisle in decline. While Carlisle can play in either type of blocking scheme, zone or power, he has always excelled at zone blocking. Thus, while he was struggling in the power blocking scheme, he should be more than serviceable as a zone blocking guard, and of course, his willingness to re-sign for a much reduced salary made him all the more valuable as an option.
With these moves, change is in the cards for the entire interior line of the Oakland Raiders. Brisiel will be playing for a new team and Carlisle and Wisniewski will be playing new positions (Carlisle has always played right guard up to this point). However, it is Young Wiz who is in for the biggest change. A move from guard to center may not seem like that big of a deal, but it truly is. In only his second year in the NFL, Wisniewski will be taking on much more responsibility at the center position. The center is the quarterback of the offensive line. They are responsible for recognizing the defensive line up and calling out blocking assignments at the line of scrimage and in general, being the leader of the offensive line. After left tackle, which is widely considered to be the most important offensive line position thanks to Lawrence Taylor, center is easily the most important position on the line.
Though I did not recognize it at first, McKenzie's decision on how to structure the Raiders offensive line was somewhat brilliant. By signing one guy and moving two others, the Raiders will have a greatly upgraded offensive line. There is solidity at both guard positions as Carlisle and Brisiel excel in the zone blocking scheme. And at center, the Raiders now have a very intellegent and talented young player who could anchor the offensive line for years to come. Despite being given very little to work with, McKenzie is showing that he was the right hire as the Raiders newest general manager. Rather than sitting back and claiming the cap issues and lack of draft picks have prevented him from making any improvements this season, McKenzie has made some incredibly smart moves that upgrade the team while keeping the Raiders in good shape with regards to the cap.