The Las Vegas Raiders saw ample change along the offensive line this past offseason. All the changes could be a detriment to the offense in 2021, but how does the unit grade out after all the moves the team made?
Going into the 2021 season, the Raiders’ offensive line will look quite different. Las Vegas made a bevy of changes within that group and it’s possible the line can remain effective but will it be as dominant as before? That’s a question Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are hoping the answer to is yes. The Raiders have torn down one of the most consistent groups on their roster. Amongst the several moves that were made some were predictable while some were stunning. Fans and analysts alike are having a hard time understanding what’s going on in Vegas.
The Raiders offensive line saw a trio of players leave
The Raiders traded two starters in center Rodney Hudson and right tackle Trent Brown as well as backup spot-starter Gabe Jackson this offseason. The Brown and Jackson moves felt almost inevitable. However, the decision to move on from Hudson was stunning, to say the least. Keep in mind that the team’s brass had been trying to move the Mississippi State product since last offseason and it also saved them over $9 million in cap space. Despite playing well last year, Jackson became an unfortunate cap casualty in a reduced cap year.
Brown nor the Raiders seemed all too pleased with one another in 2020. Between the injuries, Covid issues, and a careless mistake from the training staff, the former seventh-round pick only played in 16 games in a two-year span. Also, Vic Tafur of the Athletic reported the team wanted him to take a pay cut.
The Hudson move was by and far the most perplexing of the offseason. The three-time Pro Bowler was not only a rock along the offensive but the best remaining lineman after the loss of Jackson and Brown. ESPN analyst Mark Sanchez eventually shed some light on the situation, stating that Hudson asked for his release.
Sanchez’s Tweet also mentions that the Raiders and Hudson agreed to void his $3.5 million guaranteed for 2021. That, plus the overall performance of the team the last few years, could be what contributed to the 31-year-old wanting to play somewhere else. Either way, it does not bode well for Gruden and company if you have top talent trying to get away from your organization.
Center Nick Martin is the player the Raiders signed in free agency. While he has starting experience, he may have to compete for the starting job. It’s also more than likely they’ll end up drafting a new starting right tackle. However, a late addition is still possible as the team will need camp bodies. Las Vegas also re-signed guard Richie Incognito and versatile guard/tackle Denzelle Good.
Incognito when healthy proved he’s a dominant force to be reckoned with. Staying healthy should be his only obstacle to have a productive 2021 season. On the other hand, Good is a solid depth piece who can fill in at either guard or tackle spot as needed. It’s possible he has the edge on the starting right guard spot but he’ll more than likely battle with John Simpson. Good’s re-signing is more than likely about depth nonetheless.
The Raiders apparently are infatuated with their young project in Andre James. Tafur suggested that could be part of the reason why the Raiders were comfortable with James taking the reins at center, enough that they are so comfortable with him there they even gave him a three-year $12.5 million extension.
This move is a bit surprising as the UCLA product has only played in 21 games, starting only one. Not to mention most of his snaps came from special teams play. Having played with Kolton Miller in college, the synergy could already be there speeding up the process of getting on the same page.
The best move amongst this unit came in the form of Miller’s extension. The former first-round draft pick had a rough rookie season due to injuries and inconsistency. However, over the last two seasons, he has progressed steadily.
Pro Football Focus gave Miller a grade of 72.9 for his performance last year. While that isn’t necessarily eye-popping, it’s a stark jump from the 49.6, he received his rookie year. Miller also only surrendered two sacks in 571 pass-blocking snaps, according to Sports info Solutions. Seeing as how the left tackle is only 25 and progressing well, locking him up long term was a necessity.
How do the Raiders’ offensive line grade out after all the moves?
Heading into 2021, the starting offensive line lineup is tentatively (from left to right) Miller, Incognito, James, Good/Simpson, and a rookie right tackle. On paper, the unit appears to have regressed drastically from the 2020 season. Brandon Parker, Sam Young, and Lester Cotton Sr. round out the offensive line room. Although, those three are more than likely going to be depth pieces.
The Raiders have had strong offensive line play the past few seasons. Maintaining that high level of play will be crucial if the offense wants to remain explosive. However, as it currently sits, they appear to be set up for some growing pains in 2021.
Overall Grade: D
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