The Las Vegas Raiders offensive line wasn’t the biggest reason the team faded down the stretch and missed out on the playoffs, but that didn’t stop the team from jettisoning three starters and doing a full makeover of the starting front five.
This past offseason, right tackle Trent Brown, right guard Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson were all traded away by the Raiders. In their places, the team is looking at first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at tackle along with Denzelle Good at guard and Andre James at center to rebuild and improve the Raiders offensive line.
That leaves only starters, Kolton Miller at left guard and guard Richie Incognito returning from 2020’s Raiders offensive line. The Raiders signed Miller to an extension in the offseason, but Incognito is coming off an Achilles tendon injury that limited him to two games last season.
Rookie Leatherwood has impressed on Raiders offensive line
So far, through OTAs and minicamp, Gruden has been impressed with Leatherwood, who was something of a surprise pick in the first round out of Alabama.
“Well, he’s very smart, very athletic, he’s long,” Gruden said. “He’s a talented player, that’s why we took him. We had him ranked high on our board. We’re glad he fell to us. We were glad he was there for us. Smart guy, very athletic. He has a lot of experience. We’re counting on him being our starting right tackle.”
Starting running back Josh Jacobs, who was a teammate of Leatherwoods out of Alabama, also singled out the rookie as someone whose made an impression.
“I was just happy that he got drafted here,” Jacobs said. “Just to hear his mentality coming in is what kind of impressed me. We had a couple of hour-long talks before he got drafted about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to present himself and the task he put on himself. I’m interested to see how he lives up to his expectations.”
Raiders offensive line has some familiarity
Like Leatherwood, Miller was a bit of a head-scratcher as a first-round pick in 2018. But in his three-year career, he has started all 32 games. In March, the team extended his contract by three years and $54.015 million. The new deal will average $18 million a year through 2025 and made Miller the fifth highest-paid left tackle in the league.
Besides Miller, James also signed a contract extension with the Raiders after signing with the club as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Las Vegas also signed veteran center Nick Martin to compete for the starting center position. Incognito was cut early on preseason but came back on a one-year, $2.12 million contract.
Denzelle Good, who has been with the team since being claimed off waivers from the Colts in 2018, also returns to the team. In 2020, Good played in 15 games and made a career-high 14 starts in various positions across the line.
Brandon Parker and Jaryd Jones-Smith provide depth. Other than Leatherwood, the Raiders only drafted one other offensive lineman in Pittsburgh’s Jimmy Morrissey in the seventh round.
This new, rebuilt, recharged Las Vegas Raiders offensive line will have to gel quickly and protect quarterback Derek Carr for Las Vegas to compete in the AFC West and for a playoff slot in 2021.
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