NAPA, Calif. -- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a straight shooter. He treats hyperbole with the same disdain he does a defender trying to tackle him one-on-one in the open field. So perhaps it shouldn’t be shrugged off when he says the Raiders’ offensive line is one of the best he has played behind since entering the league. Mind you, the ninth-year veteran had three consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 yards rushing from 2009-11, including a league-high 1,606 in 2011.
The current starters, from left to right, are tackle Donald Penn, guard Khalif Barnes, center Stefen Wisniewski, guard Austin Howard and tackle Menelik Watson. The staff also is high on rookie guard Gabe Jackson, who ideally would start at left guard so the versatile Barnes could be used in an utility role. Free-agent guard Kevin Boothe also brings experience after spending the past seven seasons with the New York Giants.
“We’ve got seven, eight guys competing for five spots -- and they’re really competing,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s a good, young unit. It’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve played behind.”