What position comes to your mind when you think of a successful NFL team? Quarterback? Wide receiver? It’s unlikely you said guard, but we don’t blame you. Offensive linemen generally get less recognition than their peers. It isn’t any different for Las Vegas Raiders rookie guard John Simpson.Â
Not many foresaw John Simpson stepping into the football field by Week 2
The Raiders selected wide receiver Henry Ruggs with the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft. Later, they chose cornerback Damon Arnette. Then, running back Lynn Bowden Jr, wide receiver Bryan Edwards and linebacker Tanner Muse would follow. It wasn’t until the fourth round that the Silver and Black picked Simpson with the 109th selection. Besides playing a less than glamorous position, Simpson was one of the last players the team chose, only Amik Robertson was drafted later. That’s why it makes sense he wouldn’t get the recognition and the headlines his fellow rookies would garner.
The Raiders didn’t draft Simpson to contribute right away and he didn’t have to. He would sit behind veteran guard Richie Incognito and learn the ropes. At least, that’s what the team planned. The football gods had other plans though and Incognito would leave the Raiders Week 2 game with an Achilles injury. That signaled the Clemson standout’s time to step into action.
All in all, Simpson played 70 snaps in the Raiders 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints. It wasn’t pretty, as the rookie guard allowed five total pressures. Moreover, Pro Football Focus gave him a 40.6 grade for his effort. It wasn’t a good first game however we look at it. Nevertheless, not many first-year players would thrive under the same circumstances.
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The Raiders coaching staff is objective when evaluating Simpson’s performance
There was no Organized Team Activities nor preseason this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That definitely had an impact on rookies and their transition to the NFL. Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable is aware of that and while he isn’t giving Johnson a pass, he knows having high expectations isn’t feasible.
In his latest press, conference, Cable said that all rookies were at disadvantage due to the lack of preparation ahead of the 2020 season. It was just Simpson, but pretty much all everyone around the league. Normally, teams would help first-year players acclimatize during the offseason, but due to the restrictions, that wasn’t possible this year.
“Without having an offseason, I don’t know if any of them will reach their potential, but it gives you some vision forwards about what they (rookies) can be. Certainly, John [Simpson] stepped in on Monday Night and did quite well. It gives you kind of a glimpse of what’s to come, but there’s so much. You think about it, he would’ve had 250 to 300 pass pro reps with an offseason. He didn’t get any of that, so he walks into training camp. The first time, he’s gotta jump into our system and play. That’s kind of league wise, that’s just the way it is this year. I think that’s hard for any of these young guys. If they are the right character, if they are the right spirit as a man, then, they got a shot and that’s what he’s demonstrating.”
Simpson has plenty of room for improvement, and the Raiders are conscious about that. They also know he wasn’t put in the best position to succeed, but he could turn out just fine down the road. With Incognito now in the Injury Reserve list, we will have another glimpse of Simpson in Week 3 and we will find out if he takes a step forward in his development.
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Top Photo: Jeff Bottari/Associated Press