The Las Vegas Raiders emerged victorious against the Baltimore Ravens in a 33-27 overtime victory on Monday Night Football. However, a few major concerns need to be addressed headed into Week 2’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Alex Leatherwood vs TJ Watt
Get used to seeing Leatherwood as a liability for this offense moving forward until he proves otherwise. Drafted to be the new right tackle by Jon Gruden and Tom Cable, he has big shoes to fill. As of now, Leatherwood is getting baptized in the fire. Week after week presents a virtual “who’s who” of defensive ends and linebackers he must block.
Watt may be the most daunting task in Leatherwood’s trial by fire. In the run game, Leatherwood is peerless and capable of driving anyone five-plus yards downfield. He can reach, he can zone, and he is a phenomenal doubler. Watt is arguably a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. One whose skillset is engineered to take advantage of Leatherwood’s glaring weaknesses. Leatherwood allowed a sack and was beaten a fair share of times in naked pass protection. ‘Blitzburgh‘ is going to bring the heat early and often. Look for the Raiders to do everything possible to try and help Leatherwood on Sunday, with a tight end and a running back chip.
Losing Good is all bad, offensive line depth is shallow
Losing Denzelle Good for the season is a major blow. His absence took arguably one of the Raiders’ shallowest units on the depth chart and made them even thinner upfront. Good offered a lot of positional flexibility and a safety blanket in multiple positions. Now, the Raiders have to rely on a rookie in Leatherwood, swing tackle Brandon Parker and Kolton Miller to remain healthy all season long. Richie Incognito is still experiencing lingering issues from a calf strain. While not officially ruled out of Sunday’s game, he also hasn’t been participating at practice.
Jermaine Eluemunor replaced the injured Good, and he held up admirably. Eluemunor was effective in his pass protection and didn’t allow a sack. In the run game, he didn’t present much drop-off from Good. John Simpson performed admirably against Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and more in Incognito’s absence.
Center Andre James was solid, enjoying a good game against a top defensive front-seven. Was he perfect? No. James gave up a sack when he allowed Pernell McPhee to beat him with a swim move. He also threw two key blocks when springing Josh Jacobs for his second touchdown run. In terms of being the quarterback at the line of scrimmage, he has the misfortune of following up Rodney Hudson. Hudson identified nearly every blitz pre-snap. In his post-practice press conference, quarterback Derek Carr cited a communication breakdown leading to a Ravens free-runner on a blitz. Carr gave some insight into what bothers him the most on offense; free-running blitzers.
In a move to try and solidify the offensive line position the Raiders signed Jordan Simmons from off the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. Jeremiah Poutasi, Lester Cotton Sr. and Devery Hamilton are the remaining offensive linemen stashed on the practice squad in case anything else happens.
Josh Jacob’s Turf Toe
I admire Jacobs’s toughness and grit. There will be no Jacobs slander here. Nevertheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the consistency of his injury history. Especially early in seasons. It’s no secret that Jacobs is a hard runner, and his physical style exacts its price on his body, game after game. Turf toe, unfortunately, is an injury that usually requires a lack of activity to heal. It can take anywhere from two to three weeks up to including surgery to fix the issue.
The decision to not rest Jacobs and letting his toe heal properly is a poor one. Kenyan Drake is a starting-caliber player and a difference-maker at running back. The two of them were originally billed as a top-flight running back committee heading into 2021. There is still plenty of time for this to occur, but the play should be to rest Jacobs. It would make more sense to have him fresh later in the season, where a powerful runner will be vital.
*Top Photo: Associated Press/Rick Scuteri