The Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 first-round pick, offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, has had a rough start to his career. But currently, he is listed as the number one right tackle heading into the 2022 Hall of Fame Game.
Alex Leatherwood at right tackle…
Leatherwood has faced his fair share of adversity in adjusting to the NFL game. Ideally, both then-head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock saw an All-Pro right tackle in Leatherwood. The slight itty-bitty issue with this was that Leatherwood was playing left guard for the Alabama Crimson Tide before he was drafted.
Since being drafted, Leatherwood has been a work in progress, battling to see just where he fits in. Over the course of this offseason, he put in a lot of work to get his body in great shape for the season ahead. Currently, Leatherwood is listed as the starting right tackle on the first depth chart for 2022. He was unceremoniously ousted from that position last year. What has changed? After last season’s trial by fire, perhaps he has grown into the role. Perhaps he has corrected his footwork issues.
Once engaged with the defender, Leatherwood is as tough as a $2 steak and plays through the echo of the whistle. With the exception of the Week 2 game against Pittsburgh, Leatherwood played every offensive snap in his rookie season. He developed an uncanny ability to hear and respond to the snap of the ball before it was actually snapped. Some might call it false starts and mental mistakes, but maybe it was just being too amped up and ready to go.
Battling for a spot
It doesn’t matter where a player is drafted, or if they are even drafted at all. What does matter is what they do with the opportunities they are given. Leatherwood is in a do-or-die fight for a position on this offensive line. Nobody, who isn’t named Derek Carr, has a guaranteed spot on this roster. Then there’s Brandon Parker and Lester Cotton Sr. getting rave reviews for the gains they’re making in the offseason. The fluidity of movement and overall improvement reported by beat writers doesn’t paint a good picture for Leatherwood.
Until recently, it was perceived that both the right tackle and guard positions were locked down by the aforementioned players. It was even reported that Leatherwood was running with the threes. In the post-practice press conference, he reportedly appeared dejected and out of character.
Being named the starter in the preseason is supposed to take the pressure off of you and allow you to work on technique without having to look over your shoulder. In this case, it could signify a deeper slide down the depth chart. It may be Leatherwood’s job to lose at this moment, but iron sharpens iron, and his competition is fierce.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Matt Durisk