The offensive line was the Las Vegas Raiders’ biggest question mark heading into this season. Many people believed that despite having an abundance of offensive weapons and a reliable quarterback, the offensive line would prevent them from having a top-tier offense in the NFL.
Left tackle Kolton Miller and center Andre James were their two reliable starters going into the season, but every other spot was up for grabs. Despite selling it as a point of “competition,” the fact that the O-line was an open battle wasn’t necessarily a good thing. However, the Raiders may have finally found their best starting lineup after trying innumerable combinations, rotations, and starting lineups.
The Battle of the Guards
Like it was stated earlier, Miller and James were the only two bona fide starters for the offensive line. Lester Cotton Sr., John Simpson, Dylan Parham, Jermaine Eluemunor, and Alex Bars were fighting for the guard positions.
Early on in the competition, Cotton Sr. and Simpson had the advantage, but as an underwhelming preseason gave way to a disappointing start to the regular season, those two began to lose ground. As time went on in the early going, it was clear that the competition was far from over.
The battle for the starting guard slots tightened, with Bars and Parham getting more playing time. Taking a look at the Denver Broncos’ game, combined with James’ return, this group finally gave the Raiders a nice boost, consisting of potent run and pass blocking. The Raiders’ interior offensive line was lacking the physicality and grit that Bars and Parham bring to the table.
Has the right tackle conundrum been resolved?
The Raiders have struggled with the dreaded right tackle position for a long time. 2021 first-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood didn’t pan out, and Brandon Parker, who was supposed to start, was put on season-ending injured reserve to begin this year. As a result, Eluemunor and seventh-round pick Thayer Munford Jr. would end up competing for the right tackle spot.
Eluemunor held the upper hand, but Munford has been gradually overtaking him for the position. Munford has only started once, but he consistently finishes games at right tackle.
Contrary to popular belief, Eluemunor is not a superior pass protector. Tashan Reed of The Athletic mentioned last week that Munford’s 3.8 allowed pressure percentage is the lowest among the Raiders’ offensive tackles. The ability to block runs is where they differ. Munford is a mauler and excels in that aspect. At the right tackle position, the Raiders may have discovered their long-term option; you just have to roll with the ups and downs because his potential is obvious.
The Fab Five for the Las Vegas Raiders
James, Parham, Miller, Bars, and Munford. These five offensive linemen should start for the Raiders. These players must start, as evidenced by the Raiders’ first victory over the Denver Broncos. In spite of a strong front seven, the Raiders managed a season-high 212 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry and only gave up two sacks.
The offensive line’s main concerns are communication and continuity. These five must be the Raiders’ starters if they intend to win this season. They’ve proven their abilities; why not stop tinkering with this rotation and bring out the best group you have available and roll with them?
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images