Whether it’s Derek Carr or someone else at quarterback, the biggest priority for the Las Vegas Raiders this upcoming offseason should be their offensive line.
The run game for the Raiders has taken off at the right time, and their offensive line did a satisfactory job of keeping Carr upright this past regular season. Looking back ahead of Saturday’s wild card game, Carr was sacked 40 times in 2021. That was the most sacks given up by the O-line since 2018, when the total was 51. There’s plenty of blame to go around for this. You can say it was injuries, but there certainly was a lack of quality depth. It also didn’t help that first-round pick Alex Leatherwood struggled mightily and had to be moved inside. As the combine and scouting season begin to take shape, it’s obvious that the Raiders need to prioritize the trenches come April.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock did a questionable job with the O-line
The Raiders’ organization came under a lot of scrutiny last offseason when they began shuffling their offensive line. Looking back, both Gruden and Mayock botched this unit, and while the team is in the playoffs, you could argue they made it in spite of it. The team traded away center Rodney Hudson in favor of Andre James, who struggled for a large part of the season.
The rest of the line didn’t fare any better, though they were without Denzelle Good and Richie Incognito for pretty much the whole year. That notwithstanding, Leatherwood ended up with a 29.0 Pro Football Focus grade in the pass blocking department. According to PFF, Brandon Parker, who played right tackle, had a 54.0 pass blocking grade based on 556 pass block snaps. No matter which way you want to look at it, the right side of the line needs help.
Who can help?
2021 Consensus All-American Darian Kinnard is one option the Raiders should consider. Perhaps available in the second round once the draft gets here, Kinnard would provide tremendous upside as a possible starting right tackle from the outset. At six-foot-five and 345 pounds, the former Kentucky Wildcat is a beast, literally. His size and frame give him a physical advantage over defenders and he would eat up incoming defenders, especially in pass protection. He’s not all show, though; his explosiveness and speed are obvious on film.
What’s even more impressive for Kinnard’s size is his mobility, more specifically, his footwork. Along with impressive feet, Kinnard possesses imposing lower leg strength. You see it over and over, him driving into his opponents, driving them to the ground with such ferocity.
Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network also raved about Kinnard’s ability as an anchor. “The natural power and strength Kinnard offers has plenty of weight below the waist to have the needed ability to sit down on power rushes… With his size, you didn’t see many rushers try to bull him and test his ability to catch power conversions and I’d expect that trend to continue in the pros… This is one mean dude.”
Whether it’s Kinnard or someone else, the Raiders need help. It would behoove them to make the right tackle spot a priority sooner rather than later.
*Top Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images