Hall of Fame Game: Line still a work in progress

Heading into training camp, the offensive line was one of the biggest question marks the Raiders faced. And after one preseason game … there are still some questions.

The team rushed for 159 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 4 in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, but also gave up give sacks along the way.

“We did some decent things,” head coach Josh McDaniels said. “We played hard. You know, in the running game, we were able to create some opportunities for the backs to get started. You know, and then we probably missed some opportunities as well just relative to a few things, communication, double teams.”

There’s pluses and minuses to getting to play that first pre-season game ahead of everybody else. The team gets a chance to look at players in game situations, but also having only practiced a few times in pads. It didn’t help that Jacksonville threw a few wrinkles into the mix.

“There are a few techniques that Jacksonville uses that we haven’t quite seen yet.” McDaniels said. “So that’s always going to happen in the preseason when you don’t practice for three days leading up to the opponent, so that was a good thing for us to be able to see if somebody else plays a different technique on the line.”

Alex Leatherwood, who was drafted as a tackle in the first round of the 2022 draft but played mostly at guard last season, played right tackle against Jacksonville. McDaniel said Leatherwood “does what he always does — comes in there and competes, tries to do his job the right way. And he’s just put his head down and tried to get better. The snaps he was in yesterday, I thought he did the same thing.”

Brandon Parker, who has worked a lot at right tackle in practice, will be called upon to play a number of different roles along the line for the Raiders. McDaniels said a lot of players need to be able to play multiple spots so there is depth at the various positions.

“There were a few things that Brandon can do better,” McDaniels said. “There were also some things we were trying to do offensively but we didn’t execute very well, that didn’t have anything to do with Brandon. A lot of things go into pass protection. As I’ve said before, if you want to be good and pass protection, you have to do a lot of things right.”

McDaniels said there were two or three guys that played three different spots along the line against the Jaguars and it can be hard to evaluate their performance, especially if they haven’t practiced at those spots much.

“You can’t go to the game and there’s not a backup for every guy on the offensive line,” he said.  “Somebody’s going to have to be ready to play multiple spots and that somebody may be somebody who’s starting. If something happens and there’s an injury, you may have to flop somebody or what have you. But in order to find the right group that’s going to be able to do that you’re going to need to see people play multiple spots and that’s what we’ve tried to do since we started practicing.”

Rookie Dylan Parham was one of those players who filled multiple roles, and McDaniels said he performed well for the first time out.

“For a first game, to play multiple spots like that — I don’t think Dylan was out of position much,” he said. ‘I think the calls when he was at center, I think he was doing a decent job of getting us headed in the right direction there. His communication was pretty good. Like most rookies, once you get into games in our league, there’s just a different tempo to the reactions and some of those things. 

“He’ll see that, a lot of our young guys will see how quickly they need to be able to adjust and react on the field to certain things, but overall I thought Dylan competed hard, played a lot of different snaps at a lot of different spots and gained some valuable experience that will make us better as we go forward.”