Raiders

Raiders C Andre James Is Silencing The Doubters

Andre James came into the 2021 season penciled in as the starting center for the Las Vegas Raiders. It was a move that had analysts and fans alike perplexed and doubtful that it could work. However, James has blossomed into a solid player as the season has progressed.

One of the most perplexing moves for the Raiders during the offseason was trading center Rodney Hudson. Hudson had been a stalwart force for the Raiders’ offensive line for the past six seasons. In fact, in the few games he was out, his presence was sorely missed as the offensive line looked out of sorts.

Shortly after that trade, the Raiders signed Andre James, a very unproven player, to an extension. It was a move that left many scratching their heads and wondering what was going on with the Raiders. To the surprise of many, myself included, it may have been the right move after all.

It’s not about how you start…

To say James had a rough start to the season would be a gross undersell. There were times he missed quarterback Derek Carr completely on snaps. He was missing blocking assignments and looked completely lost every now and then. Then, there was this atrocity.

Although, in the spirit of fairness, it was unfair to think James could step in and be a Hudson 2.0 for the Raiders out of the gate. Especially considering that, up until this season, he had only taken 116 offensive snaps. The rest of his playing time came on special teams. However, James has improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s about how you finish…

The center position is one of the most important positions in football. A close second, some would argue, to only the quarterback. It’s the center’s job to make sure all of his guys along the line are on the same page. Make sure they know their assignments. Read and adjust to any extra pressure. Slide protection as needed. Relay any changes the quarterback makes. All in roughly the span of 25 seconds before the snap.

That’s quite the checklist. This is more than likely why James struggled early on. Not only are you having to learn all of this pretty much on the fly, but you’re required to learn at one of the fastest paces in the world. The speed of an NFL game is mind-boggling, and being at the center of it all, pun intended, can add a lot of undue stress.

In spite of all that, and to his credit, James has learned to manage the stress quite well. Especially considering how many personnel changes the offensive line has undergone since preseason. As James has come into form, so has the offensive line. This is a much-needed boost, especially considering this is the time the Raiders will need them the most.

The offensive line could decide the season outcome

The Raiders are in a win-and-you’re in scenario when it comes to the playoff picture. They have to get through both the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers. Both teams have played well all season, but there are some holes the offensive line could exploit.

When diving into the stats, it’s obvious the Raiders’ success will have to come from the big men upfront. Both the Colts and Chargers have lower sack totals than the Raiders. The Colts have the lowest hurry percentage of any team in the league. Keeping Carr upright and clean will be imperative if they want to win these games. Although, Josh Jacobs could benefit too.

The Chargers have the fourth worst run defense based on total yards allowed. In the Week 16 victory over the Denver Broncos, it was evident how much a strong running presence can take over a game. This is where the offensive line could flourish. No matter what happens, though, it all starts with James. His progression is one of promise and quite welcomed by fans. His upward progression will give the Raiders the best shot going forward. While it may not be the most exciting thing, perhaps keep an eye on James throughout the game tomorrow to see just how far he’s come.

*Top Photo: Associated Press/Rick Scuteri

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lftay5307

He’s young, relatively cheap and under contract for a couple more years, seems to be durable, and has an upward trajectory on his skills. Per PFF, is playing better than Hudson, and seems to be a good bargain. If only they hadn’t made such a terrible error with Leatherwood the line might actually be in a good position going forward.

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