During the NFL lockout, I spent a lot of time watching different nature channels and documentaries. Out of all the animals I marveled at only one stuck out: the notoriously fearless honey badger.
Coated in black fur with a silver-ish lining draping its back, the tough badger savagely attacks cobras, lions and coyotes—larger animals that carry a much more dangerous reputation. Labeled by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless animal, the honey badger is tireless in combat, and more often than not, wears out his opponents with its relentless aggression.
The similarities between the Oakland Raiders offensive line and the honey badger were never more apparent than yesterday when the Oakland linemen faced off against the most ferocious predator in the NFL on Sunday: the New York Jets front seven.
On Sunday, behind the burrowing bruisers, NFL rushing leader Darren McFadden and the top rushing attack in the NFL manhandled arguably the best rushing defense in the league (New York Jets). The Raiders offensive line bullied the Jets front seven from start to finish, allowing the Raiders to rush for over 200 yards and secure a 34-24 home-opening win.
But the Raiders offensive line has done more than run block. This season, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell is top 10 in quarterback rating and completion percentage and has committed one turnover this season on a last-second Hail Mary in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills. One of the reasons for the quarterback’s success is that he has only been hit seven times which is a league low, and he’s only been sacked twice, which is also a league low.
Raider’s head coach Hue Jackson said months ago when he was named head coach, “We're going to build a bully here,” and thus far this season, the Raider offensive line has bullied and terrorized opposing defenses.
When asked about his legendary run defense, Jets head coach Rex Ryan responded, "I don't know what rush defense you're talking about, because they had 234 yards, 7.3 yards per carry. I've never had that happen in my life, but it just happened. We've got to give them credit."
But then again, Ryan’s defense has never faced the new-look Raiders honey badger-like offensive line, "The Nasty Bunch," who opened holes the entire game allowing McFadden to average nine yards a carry and two touchdowns.
In my opinion there was one single play that exemplified the play of the Nasty Bunch: Late in the third quarter Denarius Moore took a reverse, the Jets' Jim Leonhard came in for the tackle when starting center Sam Satele provided the block of the day, flying into Leonhard with a bone-cringing pancake block that propelled Leonhard three yards backwards. Seconds later, Moore lunged into the end zone for a touchdown.
On a play that could have been a loss of yardage, it ended up being a touchdown—just because of extra effort. For that, my game ball goes to Satele and the offensive line.