As the Las Vegas Raiders prepare for training camp, their offensive line is mostly set. However, a closer look reveals this camp battle will be crucial long-term for the Silver and Black.
General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden continue to rebuild the Raiders, but one constant remains. That constant is the offensive line that has kept quarterback Derek Carr upright since 2016. Other than a freak injury that derailed the 2016 campaign, this unit has been a strength for quite some time. As for training camp in 2020, the unit goes in with hopes of repeating last year’s performance.
A major contributing factor to the line’s success is its stability and continuity. At the heart of it is center, Rodney Hudson. An offensive anchor that’s become this unit’s stalwart will look to dominate once again in 2020. That being said, how does the rest of the unit shape up with camp upon us?
The Heart of the Raiders
The line’s exterior features Trent Brown, the team’s prized tackle who dominated in 2019. Brown’s pass-blocking prowess was downright impressive. Pro Football Focus gave it a 77.8-grade last year. Kolton Miller will be the starting left tackle once again barring injury in camp. For his part, Miller bounced back last year after a less than stellar rookie campaign. Here at the Raider Ramble, CJ Errickson summed up Miller’s 2019 season perfectly:
“Miller’s athleticism spurred both the run and pass game for the offense in 2019. When Gruden schemed plays that had him at the point of attack on the perimeter, great things followed.”
Unless there’s an injury or a setback of biblical proportions, both Brown and MIller will be manning the tackle spots after camp. As for the two guards spots, the two immediate starters will be Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson. Incognito, like Brown, proved to be stellar in pass blocking situations, getting a 88.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Even if there’s a slight decline due to Incognito’s age, it won’t be steep enough for him to lose his job. He’ll be the team’s starting left guard for the foreseeable future.
Possible Camp Intrigue?
Jackson, the other remnant of the 2016 offensive line, will most likely leave camp as the starter. After all the rumors and trade talks, the Raiders stayed put and kept him. Luckily, Raiders brass is always planning for the future and the guard position is no different. John Simpson, another Clemson player, was drafted back in April and while he may not leave camp as a starter, he’s important for the future. Our own Dalton Blackman wrote on Simpson’s possible future and how he figures to be key moving forward even with Jackson still in-house.
The Raiders can clear almost $10 million in cap space by cutting the guard [Jackson]. That is definitely a possibility if Simpson has a strong performance in camp. Jackson should be able to keep his job heading into Week One, but he could get shopped again at the trade deadline or next offseason.
It’ll be interesting to see how camp unfolds, there’s a lot on the line for Jackson it seems and justifiably so. Battling through injuries is commendable, however, the NFL is a business first and if Jackson can no longer perform as he once did, Simpson might get his shot sooner than later.
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*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal