While the Las Vegas Raiders offense looked good at times in Week 1, there’s still work to do. Namely, in the run game where the offensive line had its fair share of struggles.
Coming into the 2021 season, the Raiders made sweeping changes along their offensive line. Gone are fan-favorite Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, while Trent Brown was shown the door as well. This would leave the Raiders with a totally new offensive line that included the return of Richie Incognito, the emergence of Denzelle Good, first-round pick Alex Leatherwood and surprise starter Andre James.
However, as usual, things did not go according to plan on Monday. Incognito was forced out of action due to an injury thus inserting John Simpson into a starting role. The bad luck continued when the game kicked off with Denzelle Good tearing his ACL in the first quarter. In stepped fourth-stringer Jermaine Eluemunor.
For most of Week 1, the Raiders offensive line featured: two backup guards, a first-time starter at center, and a rookie right tackle. Add in that the Ravens defensive line is always a stout group and you have a recipe for disaster.
So it is not a surprise that, at times, the Raiders simply weren’t as good as their opponent. While James had some solid plays, he had plenty where he got tossed around like the one above. As Jacobs gets the ball here and searches for a cut-back lane, Ravens defensive tackle and former Raider Justin Ellis bullied James. Ellis earns his paycheck by dominating the run game, and for James, he couldn’t match his power one-on-one.
Plays like this are where the Raiders miss Rodney Hudson. While this reach block from the center is by no means an easy assignment, he often makes them look that way. For James, he has some work to do on these plays. He can’t get through the trash and seal off the linebacker who eventually blows this play up in the play above.
Reinforcements are on the way
Luckily for the Raiders, help is on the way. It comes in the form of veteran guard Richie Incognito. Always known for his physicality, he brings a different vibe to the Raiders offensive line. In addition to his talent, he will be able to help the young Andre James. An added benefit of the four-time Pro Bowler returning is that Eluemunor can return to a depth role. While Simpson certainly still has work to do, it is better to see him paired with Incognito than Eluemunor .
Heading into next week, things don’t get any easier for James and Co. Heading to Pittsburgh for an early start, the young center will see a lot of defensive tackle Cameron Hayward. Hayward will be a force as always, so the hope is that Incognito potentially returning will help the team as a whole. Growing pains should be expected early on in James’ career, but look for him to improve as the team around him does as well.
*Top Photo: Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders