The Las Vegas Raiders offense has had its share of highs and lows this season. They have demonstrated to Raider Nation that they can blow teams out of the water, but they too; can suffer that same fate. Through nine weeks of the season, it is clear that rookie Alex Leatherwood has the most to prove on offense for the remainder of the season.
Leatherwood’s Season at a Glance
In a highly controversial move, the Raiders selected Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Many analysts had a second-round grade on Leatherwood, but the Raiders were confident he was their guy.
Leatherwood started the season at right tackle, but after little success and a lot of criticism, Tom Cable moved Leatherwood to right guard. The rookie has had more success at guard, but he has yet to live up to the expectations that come with being a first-round selection.
Leatherwood has racked up 11 penalties through nine games. Yes, you read that right. Leatherwood averages more than one penalty per game. He is tied for second in the league when it comes to penalties, behind only Connor Williams in Dallas. The Raiders’ first-rounder has also allowed 12 quarterback hits and five sacks this season, also tied for second in the league.
Pro Football Focus has granted Leatherwood a run-blocking grade of 63.2, a pass-blocking grade of 26.7, and an overall grade of 40.7. While these grades are hard to look at, they have improved throughout the season. Leatherwood played his best game of the season against Kansas City, and Raider Nation can only hope that trend continues.
Where can he go from here?
Like many of the Raiders’ former first-round picks, Leatherwood has a lot of work to do to live up to his draft position. It is true; the NFL is tough on rookies, particularly offensive linemen. In a season as unprecedented as the one the Raiders have had, it is only fair to withhold judgment until Leatherwood has played a full season. Nevertheless, there are some things he can do to improve in the eyes of NFL fans everywhere.
First and foremost, the penalties have to go. Whether it’s false starts or holding, the penalties committed by Leatherwood have been detrimental. Josh Jacobs told reporters on Thursday that “to be making these same kinds of mistakes at this time of the season is frustrating” when referring to the penalties that have plagued the team for nine weeks. To see an increase in efficiency from the offensive line, these penalties must become a distant memory.
Leatherwood also has to show he can pass block more effectively through the remaining eight games. With the loss of Henry Ruggs III and the addition of new wide receivers, Derek Carr must feel confident that he has the time he needs to find his receivers. When your offensive line is struggling to keep the opposing defensive line away, it becomes more and more challenging to get the ball out. Leatherwood has to prove to Carr that no matter how long his quarterback needs to get the ball out, he will be able to keep the pass rushers away.
Raiders Brass Isn’t Afraid Of Making A Move…
While Leatherwood’s season so far has been challenging, his improvement has been clear. The Raiders front office has shown this season that if you’re hurting the team, as opposed to helping it, they aren’t afraid to find your replacement. For Leatherwood to keep his starting role next season, it is time to start showing up and showing out.
*Top Photo: Associated Press/Rick Scuteri