One of the most dramatic changes that took place with the Las Vegas Raiders was the decision to move on from Rodney Hudson. Replacing the center will be no small feat but how’s the position looking like ahead of camp?
Much to the chagrin of Raider Nation, the move to trade Hudson was met with fierce criticism. Despite showing some signs of possibly losing a step, the O-line’s anchor performed well in 2020. Nevertheless, the Raiders’ brass opted to rebuild the offensive line with more emphasis on speed and positional flexibility. The end game hopes to be that the Silver and Black can rebuild their power run game. Selecting Alex Leatherwood to man the right tackle spot aside, deciding who’ll be the starting center should be the biggest offseason question.
Andre James who has been with the Raiders since 2019, has appeared in just 19 games. The former UCLA Bruin appears to have been the heir apparent all along. Regardless, Nick Martin was signed in free agency and Jimmy Morrissey, by way of Pittsburgh, was drafted in April. The position once cemented by Hudson, year in year out, is now being handled by a platoon.
Is center already set without a camp battle for the Raiders?
According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, James was taking most of the snaps at center during offseason workouts. With signs pointing to James taking the reigns, this would relegate Martin to being the backup center. However, Bonsignore did note that Martin could see action as a guard. Again, the emphasis with this year’s offensive line has been flexibility. Looking across the projected starters, the common theme is they all can move around and play different positions.
Morrissey for his part could end up on the practice roster his rookie year as he makes the NFL transition. Under the tutelage of offensive line coach Tom Cable, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Morrissey take the field sooner rather than later. As far as Martin’s concerned, he’s by no means an afterthought.
What could Martin bring to the table?
Martin winning the starting job shouldn’t really surprise folks even if James is taking the snaps heading into training camp. Last year, Martin played 980 snaps on offense per Pro Football Focus. He allowed just one sack and only had four penalties against his name. Coming into the league with a family pedigree, his brother Zack is the Cowboys’ All-Pro guard, Martin’s clearly no pushover.
His pass blocking was solid in those snaps played, earning a 74.0 grade per PFF. A two-time captain at Notre Dame, Martin had originally graded as a second-round center by Draft Wire in 2016. Fast forward to 2021 and Martin is one of the most underrated centers in the league. Along with being solid in pass protection, Martin proved to be effective in helping out with double teams. Generating power blocking that reaches the second level will be crucial as the Raiders look to re-establish their dominance in the run game. Luckily, Martin showed to be fruitful in this department.
While the Raiders coaching staff will be assessing both James and Martin during camp, this, in theory, should be an interesting camp battle. This will be despite James’ status as the heir to Hudson’s job.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Rick Scuteri