Film Room: Alex Leatherwood’s Raiders Preseason Debut

Last weekend, Raider Nation finally got to see first-round pick Alex Leatherwood on display. With plenty of positives and learning moments, here’s a recap of his first start for the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Positive

The first thing that sticks out about Leatherwood is his size. He fits right in with the Raiders’ propensity for massive players along the offensive line. This size was oftentimes his greatest asset in the game Saturday. Truly, he can use it to dominate reps when combined with his natural aggressiveness.

In this play, the Raiders elect to run right behind the rookie. He rewards them by easily moving the person in front of him. Praised for his run blocking ability while at Alabama, he looks to be paving holes like this for Josh Jacobs come Week 1.

As mentioned, Leatherwood is known for his run-blocking prowess. As such, his worries lie in pass protection. However, he showed some growth in this department comparative to his college days. Never the most fleet of foot, Leatherwood seemed to be moving much faster in his kick step than he did at Alabama.

For most of the night, the Raiders ran quick-hitting, short pass plays. As such, it made it hard to truly judge Leatherwood in pass protection. However, in the above clip, he moves noticeably faster than he did while in school. While he has much work to do in this area, any improvement upon his biggest weakness is exciting.

Leatherwood’s most impressive play

Probably the most impressive play of the game for Leatherwood, this is big-time stuff. The Raiders dial up a short pass play to the middle of the field. As such, it is paramount that the offensive line provides enough resistance to get the pass off. Leatherwood notices the guard next to him is beaten cleanly. However, he doesn’t panic. Instead, he keeps his hands on the man he is assigned to, then, gets a hand on the other defender, and keeps them engaged long enough for Peterman to get the ball off.

This level-headedness is huge for a player so young and it’s the most exciting thing he displayed Saturday.

Work to do

As mentioned, Leatherwood must still work on his pass blocking sets. While he has incredibly long arms, he oftentimes had them swatted away quite easily on Saturday.

In this clip, Leatherwood does a good job of staying calm. Compare this rep with the one displayed by Brandon Parker at the top of the screen. Where Parker lunges and misses his man, Leatherwood stays calm and allows his defender to come to him. The problem is how easily he gets knocked off-platform. While he is able to recover on the play, if this was against NFL starters he would have been embarrassed. These situations happened on his college tape as well.

Plenty of time

Of course, it was not a perfect debut. He was beaten a few times and missed assignments at times. Regardless, the moment never seemed too big. While veterans like Parker were panicking when beaten, Leatherwood stays calm and resets. Will he be so lucky against the Joey Bosa’s of the world? Probably not. However, this is the truest form of on-the-job training and if he is going to make mistakes, now is the time to do it. Overall, Raider fans should be happy with the way he performed Saturday.

*Top Photo: AP Photo/John Locher

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