Most professional athletes tend to hit their peak in their 20s. Could Incognito hit his at age 37 with the Las Vegas Raiders?
Throughout his decade-plus NFL career, Incognito has experienced many ups and downs. Early on in his career, he struggled with inconsistent play on the field, and a myriad of issues off of it. Recently, things seem to be trending in the right direction for the veteran guard both on and off the field. One could even say that Incognito, even at 37, could finally have that breakout season in which he becomes recognized as one of the elite offensive linemen in the NFL.
Renaissance In Buffalo
After not playing in 2014 in the wake of the 2013 Jonathan Martin bullying scandal, Incognito returned to Buffalo, where he had a brief stint in 2009. In 2015, he had his best season ever. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the number one left guard in the league. Furthermore, he earned his second Pro Bowl berth. He later followed that up with two more Pro Bowl seasons in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, he suddenly retired due to health concerns. It was at this time when the off the field issues returned.
Getting Back to a Healthy State of Mind
The funeral home incident after his father’s death seems like the thing that finally got Incognito to address his issues with substance abuse. After a year of no issues in Oakland, things should continue to be stable in Las Vegas. While Sin City may not seem like a great place for someone like him, it is actually a good environment for the veteran guard. He moved to Las Vegas before joining the Raiders when he retired, so he has a head start on getting acclimated there. Also, he appears to have a strong support system thanks to his family.
Building Off of a Strong 2019
Incognito had a strong 2019 season. According to PFF, he had the league’s highest pass-blocking grade among all left guards. He did this despite taking a year off in 2018. Missing some games due to suspension and injury are likely what kept him from making his fifth Pro Bowl. Likewise, his run-blocking grade was significantly lower than his pass-blocking grade. Both of these issues should be a non-factor in 2020. Not being suspended to start the season will allow him to play more games. As for the run-blocking, he should improve as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. For offensive linemen, run-blocking is often more complex than pass protection. Finally, the team as a whole appears to be improved this year, which should help make everyone’s job easier.
Raiders: Bottom Line
While Incognito is likely far closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he could be closer to his peak than ever before. His last several years have been some of his best, and he now seems to have his off-field issues under control. He will be in his second season with what is projected to be the same offensive line as last season on team that looks poised to be in contention for a playoff spot. For these reasons, 2020 could be the year Incognito finally makes the leap from being a very good guard, to being elite. How could that leap be cemented? By becoming an All-Pro for the first time in his career.
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