HENDERSON, Nev. – Take a deep breath…
Kolton Miller at left tackle. John Simpson at left guard. Andre James in the center. Alex Leatherwood at right guard. And Brandon Parker at right tackle.
Yes, it’s a unit that contributed to Los Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr being sacked 40 times in 2021, the second-highest total of his eight-year career. It’s also a unit that, as the team prepares to begin its offseason training program next week under new coach Josh McDaniels, is in line to return as is.
Hope for? Are the Raiders really going to get back on the run with a unit that was a decided weakness a year ago?
Yes, about that…
“There was an offensive lineman that we were interested in and, again, there’s a level of discipline, like I said, that you have to have,” new Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler told three reporters at recent team meetings. NFL owners in Palm Beach. , Florida “Some of those opportunities went a different way, so we turned around and went a different way and strengthened other parts of the team.”
Yes, the Raiders were looking to beef up the offensive line in the early days of free agency. Instead, they got the band back together and re-signed Parker, a much-criticized third-round pick in 2018, to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with $2.662 million guaranteed.
Ziegler referred to the 26-year-old Parker as a “rising player” for Las Vegas.
“He’s got really good size, really good length, which are two important attributes at the offensive tackle position,” Ziegler said of the 6-foot-8, 320-pound player who started the last 13 games at right tackle.
“He’s an athletic guy for his size and he’s a guy that I think can continue, again Brandon is not a finished product… He can continue to get better. He had a good experience playing a lot of plays at the end». year… there is a lot of learning that comes out of that. All of those things were exciting.”
And, as the Associated Press noted, while Parker earned the highest Pro Football Focus rating of his career last season, he still ranked 52nd out of 55 tackles in the league overall: 47th in run blocking and 48th in pass blocking. .
Las Vegas also signed versatile Alex Bars in free agency and re-signed Jermaine Eluemunor, who started three early-season games at right guard. And the Raiders will also recapture the services of Denzelle Good, who opened the year at starting right guard but missed the entire season when he tore the ACL in his left knee in the opener.
So maybe the Raiders aren’t exactly, um, run it againHey?
Not when another $20 million or so returns to his salary cap after June 1, thanks to cuts to defensive end Carl Nassib and linebacker Cory Littleton. And not all players essentially get a “fresh start” from Ziegler and McDaniels.
And, as McDaniels said, in addition to Miller being a key player at left tackle, the offensive line will evolve throughout the offseason heading into training camp.
“They’re not going to play in one place,” McDaniels said. “When I talk about relative versatility and flexibility, is it better that you can play in more than one place or is it just difficult to create additional value for yourself and for the team, if we have too many players who are only position players. «
McDaniels said a lot of different players will be in and out of both right tackle and right guard.
“Let them compete,” McDaniels said. “The best guys will play. But, to do that, we have to let everyone have a chance.”
Which brings us back to the key on the right side of the line: last year’s first-round pick.
Is Leatherwood a right tackle, where he started last season as a starter? Or if he’s a right guard, where was he moved in Week 5? The 17th overall pick in the 2021 draft, and one of the most penalized linemen in the NFL, could be the key to the entire line.
“He’s a big part of this,” McDaniels said. “He played a lot of football as a rookie and that counts for something, you know what I mean? and you can say, well it was this or that. I know, his sophomore year will feel like his sophomore year, not his rookie year because he was there a lot. He played a lot of plays. He played tackle, he played guard. And we’re going to try to give him the opportunity to earn the role that best suits him and is best for the Raiders.
“And look, we know what he was recruited for and we will give him the opportunity to do it. But ultimately what we want to do at the end of the day is let the top five guys The best five guys we can put up to protect the quarterback and handle the ball and be physical, that’s what we’re going to try to make”.
Yes, it is a work in progress.
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Are the Las Vegas Raiders really going to come back with the same O-line?