If you asked any Las Vegas Raiders fan who their least favorite player was in September or October, the consensus opinion would be Andre James. Fast forward to today, and his name is hardly brought up, although, for him, that’s a good thing.
At many positions, with the offensive line being included, most times a player’s name is said by the broadcaster, it means he’s made a mistake. Mistakes were something James really cut down on as the season went on.
A look back at the Raiders’ center in 2021
The Raiders signed James as an undrafted free agent before the 2019 season. He played periodically in stints where Rodney Hudson was injured and then got his first chance at starting a full season in 2021. Last season, expectations for him were understandably large, given the fact that he was given a $12 million extension before the season.
It takes most players, especially when being introduced to a full-time starting role, a little time to adjust. For James, that adjustment time was an especially rough period. Andre had issues with the speed and location of his snaps, missing blocks and assignments. This lasted a couple of weeks, and soon most Raiders’ fans were calling for his head.
Fortunately, for himself and the team as a whole, James really started to improve as the year went on. Alex struggled with penalties as the year went on, but his snaps and his blocking in both run and pass schemes were strong.
Andre James getting to the second level blocking the LB and Renfrow with the great block on the FS pic.twitter.com/aZLxF3Jfo8
— Mahky Maak (@mahky_maak) October 18, 2021
Andre James was an asset in the run game for Las Vegas
In the video above, the Raiders are able to score a touchdown on a run by Kenyan Drake. That score was only possible because of James. In that play, James quickly breaks to the second level and opens the hole by blocking the linebacker. This is the textbook definition of what a center should be doing in this play.
Run blocking became a strong spot for James as the year progressed, as well as his all-around game. From Week 7 through the end of the regular season, Andre had the sixth best overall Pro Football Focus grade among all centers, at 77.9. His run-block grade was seventh, and pass-blocking was ninth. Those are impressive statistics, and they show that James finished the season as a top-10 center. That may seem like a stretch after his brutal first half of the season, but not so much considering a stat like the one below.
Andre James: 0 sacks allowed in 860 snaps
Rodney Hudson: 1 sack allowed in 568 snaps
— Raider Nation Boston (@RaiderNationBOS) December 13, 2021
That stat was with about four weeks left in the season. James did give up two sacks before the end of the year. Still, his stat line was very impressive. James allowed just two sacks, three total hits and 17 pressures in 730 pass-blocking snaps. James also played every single down on offense throughout the year, for a total of 1139.
What does the future hold for the Raiders’ center?
Ultimately, it was an up-and-down year for Andre James. James started the season very poorly, but as the season went on, he began to put up an impressive campaign. Statistically, James finished the year as one of the ten best centers in the league, which is quite a climb from the depths of the first month of the year. James had an impressive season overall, and the Raiders should have high expectations for him next year.
*Top Photo: Bobby Ellis/Getty Images