Raiders need more offensive line before playing for AFC West


Steve marcus

The Las Vegas Raiders offensive takes on Kolton Miller (74) and Alex Leatherwood (70) during a drill during Raiders training camp at the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson on Thursday, August 12, 2021.

The Raiders moved on to game week practice for their upcoming Monday night clash against the Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday during a positional group period with most units running at half speed or focusing. on instruction.

The offensive line was the exception. Offensive line coach Tom Cable barked orders, demanded rhythm and pushed his players.

The offensive line holding the team’s most intense one-on-one sessions isn’t new, but it was particularly noticeable as the season now enters midway through. The Raiders don’t have time to rest when it comes to their offensive line.

That’s because that’s arguably Las Vegas’ only major problem with a 3-0 start to the season.

“I think it’s easy for people to look at a problem and say, ‘Boy, they’re having problems over there,'” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said last week. “But we are looking to find solutions and we will continue to try to find solutions. “

Las Vegas is averaging just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt behind an injured, green offensive line that ranks practically in the bottom half of the league. any advanced statistics. They’ve been able to get around the problem so far, but be aware that in order to keep the same overall pace, they’ll need more.

The fact that the bloopers outnumber the highlights up front, which they almost certainly did in Sunday’s 31-28 overtime win over the Dolphins, is not sustainable.

“We had a game where the two guards pulled out and collided,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after the game. “It’s not by design.”

The Raiders lost their wages on the offensive line as the season approached, prompting many to demand that level of drop. The front office and coaching staff were confident they could continue producing at a high level with younger players, but could not have foreseen the injuries that helped derail the rebuild.

After playing just one game a year ago, right guard Richie Incognito has yet to be active this year after suffering calf strain at training camp. The Raiders also lost starting goaltender to Incognito Denzelle Good to a torn ACL in the season opener.

Young players have also been part of the problem. Las Vegas put their biggest hopes on rookie first-round pick Alex Leatherwood in right tackle and former undrafted third-year veteran Andre James in center.

They were the ones who struggled the most, racking up errors and missed blocks to block the drives.

“We’ve had some pushes where it’s been pretty good and there have been some pushes where it has to be better,” said Gruden. “But it’s a young group, they play great defenses.”

The concerns were evident from the first possession of the year. Las Vegas rolled within a yard of the red zone against Baltimore before James received a penalty, then made an errant snap to push the team out of the field goal.

Later, Leatherwood infamously made a false start inside the 1-yard line in overtime to turn what looked like a sure win into an all-time thriller. One hit on Leatherwood coming out of Alabama was his tendency to pick up penalties, and it’s not a habit he’s picked up as a pro.

He’s tied for the NFL lead with four already despite missing time with injuries in each of the last two games.

James’ penalties – he has three in total – and bad snaps are also a recurring issue as he threw a ball over Carr’s head late against Miami.

“I promise we’ll go through these things, but he’s got a fat guy in front of him too, and no excuses, he still wants to put him there,” Carr said. “But I said to him, ‘I’m sorry this got over me. I just didn’t have the hops for him.

Carr may try to replace his teammates, but making a jump stop with a bad snap isn’t part of his job description.

Left tackle Kolton Miller was the only bastion of reliability on the line, and the Raiders ended up doing their ground game largely by rushing behind him in the fourth quarter and into overtime against the Dolphins. Peyton Barber had a career-high 111 rushing yards and said it was because he could feel those in front of him grow stronger as the game progressed.

“Offensive line, we have a good group of guys,” Barber said.

It sounds simple, but it’s one of the main reasons for the Raider’s optimism for the future. There are no bad seeds mixed in with the offensive line, as everyone on the squad raves about the squad’s attitude and their desire to improve.

Left guard John Simpson, who struggled almost as hard as Leatherwood and James, has a reputation as one of the hardest workers on the team since arriving as a fourth-round pick last year. He’s also said to be as cerebral as Leatherwood, whom Gruden joked was a “deep, philosophical cat”.

New right-guard Jermaine Eluemunor, who the Raiders claimed from the Jaguars training squad after Good’s injury, may have the biggest personality and the most unique backstory on the team. He grew up in England playing soccer before attending one of the NFL series games in London to learn about soccer.

He also stepped in and played competently, which unfortunately for the Raiders meant he was likely their second best lineman. But the coaching staff are pushing hard towards a day when the entire offensive line leaves mistakes behind and solidifies.

“Leatherwood is working with a guy who just arrived (Eluemunor),” Gruden said. “André has really started half a dozen games in his career. The snap accuracy was not as good as it should be (against the Dolphins), and John Simpson is a young player. So, it’s going to take time. Development does not happen overnight, but we are improving.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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