Third-round rookie Dylan Parham represents the only major addition the Raiders have made to their offensive line this offseason, which makes one wonder if the unit will allow the team’s offense — which features a quality quarterback in Derek Carr and several high-end skill position talents in tight end Darren Waller and trade acquisition Davante Adams — to live up to its potential. Indeed, Carr was sacked 40 times in 2021, and Las Vegas’ 95.1 rushing yards per game was a bottom-five figure, even though the offense as a whole ranked 11th in total yardage.
In fairness, the OL suffered several key injuries last year, and in the estimation of Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, there are two major potential developments that will help the Raiders’ blockers perform at a “workable” level: the return of Denzelle Good to the right guard spot, and 2021 first-rounder Alex Leatherwood seizing the right tackle role.
In May, we learned that Las Vegas’ new regime was giving Leatherwood reps at RT during spring practices, and as Guiterrez recently wrote in a separate piece, head coach Josh McDaniels said Leatherwood would be given every opportunity to win the job. In his rookie season, the Alabama product — who was generally not viewed as a Day 1 talent leading up to the draft — was moved to right guard due largely to his struggles on the edge. It may be a bit much to expect him to become even a league-average starter in his sophomore year, but it seems the Raiders believe that can happen.
Good, meanwhile, was one of the above-referenced O-linemen to sustain a major injury in 2021, as he tore his ACL in the regular season opener. That shut him down for the remainder of the campaign, but even at full strength, he has not been a world-beater. The 2015 seventh-round pick of the Colts was waived midway through the final year of his rookie contract and was subsequently claimed by the Raiders. He started just five games in 2019, his first full year with the Silver-and-Black, but the club re-signed him the following offseason, and he wound up starting 14 contests in 2020. Although Pro Football Focus assigned him a middling 56.7 grade that year — good for 56th out of 80 qualified players — the Raiders authorized a two-year, $8.36MM re-up last March.
At present, Gutierrez projects a starting five of LT Kolton Miller, LG Parham, C Andre James, RG Good, and RT Leatherwood. He acknowledges that alignment is not especially exciting, but healthy and passable showings from the right side of that line could still be enough to elevate the offense to a top-five outfit given the rest of the talent on the roster.