Admittedly, there’s not much to complain about after a team starts 3-0. Except for what the Las Vegas Raiders have done to their fans’ blood pressure levels this season, they’ve had as good a start as possible.
Still, there are always things that can improve. If the Raiders are a legit contender, they’re going to have to be as sound of a unit as possible. At this point, the most important of those units is the offensive line.
What happened to the O-line?
It seems shocking to see the struggles this squad is having. For the past several years, the Raiders have continually had one of the best offensive lines in the league. Now, it’s the biggest thing holding them back.
Of course, one obvious reason for this is the departure of Rodney Hudson. Hudson is one of, if not the best center in the league. Hudson did ask to be released. So, it is wrong to give the Raiders all of the blame for his departure.
Still, losing one of the best players in all of football hurts. It doesn’t help that his replacement, Andre James, has struggled mightily. It’s an odd sight to see Carr have to chase snaps and scramble because of missed blocks. It seems that James’s struggles have shown how spoiled the Raiders were at the center position for so long.
Another former cornerstone, Gabe Jackson, was cut this offseason to save cap space. Part of the reason the Raiders were so comfortable with this move was because of Denzelle Good. He played well last season in Jackson’s absence. Then, Good suffered an injury just minutes into this season, and the team finds themselves stuck.
The Raiders have been unable to replace Trent Brown…
Raiders fans are very familiar with the Trent Brown saga as well. He didn’t play as much as many would have liked during his tenure. Nevertheless, he still was productive when he did get on the field. The Raiders have had a hard time filling his spot at left tackle as we’ve seen through three games this year.
To add to this long list of issues, Richie Incognito has missed the first three games with injuries. He’s getting up in age, and that is a reason he’s struggled with injuries as much as he has at this point in his career. Still, he entered this season as one of the best linemen on the team. The Raiders have clearly suffered in his absence.
The current reality…
Now, the Raiders face a hard fact; the unit that was their strong suit just two years ago is now their biggest weakness.
James has not been good. He’s had more errant snaps in three games than Hudson did in his entire Raiders’ tenure. With Good’s injury, Jermaine Eleumunor and John Simpson have had to play more snaps than the team likely envisioned. Alex Leatherwood can play two positions, but he’s playing the one that requires more refinement. His inexperience is showing against the talented edge rushers he’s faced.
The Raiders lack depth and talent on this unit, and that may be the worst combination possible. The only player on this squad that has had a good start to the season is Kolton Miller. Unfortunately, his efforts continue to be overshadowed by the incompetence shown by the rest of the line.
Still, it’s been overlooked for a reason. The Raiders’ lackluster run game is affected by the injuries Josh Jacobs has suffered. Still, a bigger reason is the line. Carr has had no time to throw the ball; it’s been constant pressure from opposing defenses. So far in 2021, he’s been blitzed 46 times. Meanwhile, the Raiders have struggled to establish an effective run game.
Where to now?
If the Raiders want to succeed this year, this unit must improve. Carr has been sensational, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that he’s been forced to carry the offense on his back. While Carr and the passing game, in general, has put of exceptional numbers, it’s not sustainable. That’s not to say the passing game can’t be great all year; it just won’t happen at this rate. If the Raiders continue to struggle running the ball, it will be much easier for opposing defenses to game plan against Jon Gruden’s offense.
This article is in dire need of some good news, and here it is: The Raiders will be getting Richie Incognito back at some point. He will miss the next two games after being placed on the IR. However, after that, it seems like he’ll be back soon, at least according to Gruden on Saturday;
“… It’s just taking time. Richie’s been making some progress but not enough to get him back on the field.”
The Raiders don’t have any in-house options to improve this group. If the line doesn’t improve, Las Vegas may be active near the trade deadline. They will be hoping to find some reinforcements. One thing is for sure, the offensive line is the biggest weakness on this Raiders team, and it’s something that must improve as the season continues.
*Top Photo: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports