Dylan Parham (OL)

Latest On Raiders’ Offensive Line Situation

The Raiders entered the season with one of the most highly-regarded skill-position groups in the league, but a number of questions on the offensive line. That was reflected by a rotation at multiple spots in Week 1, something which is expected to continue tomorrow. 

As noted by Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the team deployed two players at both right tackle and right guard, with starters Jermaine Eluemunor and Dylan Parham sharing time with Thayer Munford and Lester Cotton, respectively. Overall, the Raiders allowed five sacks in their loss to the Chargers, but the play of that quartet drew praise from the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi.

“I think they’ve earned the right to play again this week,” he said of the aforementioned linemen. The two starters drew encouraging PFF grades, but Bonsignore adds that Munford “will remain in the mix” for significant playing time. Of course, outside additions remain a distinct possibility as well.

The Raiders hosted a number of veterans earlier this week, including Billy Price. That resulted in a practice squad deal for the 27-year-old, who was a full-time starter for the Giants last season. In addition, Vegas worked out former Cardinal Justin Murray recently, along with far less experienced options in Myron CunninghamShamarious Gilmore and Willie Wright (Twitter link via SI’s Howard Balzer).

“We’re playing the guys that deserve to play,” head coach Josh McDaniels confirmed. “There are seven guys that played [Sunday] because they earned the opportunity with their performance throughout the course of the preseason and in training camp.”

With the rotation apparently set to continue for the foreseeable future, the Raiders will look to find a full-time starting unit while aiming for their first win tomorrow against the Cardinals.

Raiders Not Expecting Any Rookies To Start In 2022

A rumor that isn’t totally surprising given the situation, after not making a selection in the 2022 NFL Draft until near the end of Day 2, Las Vegas does not expect any of their rookies to man starting roles this season, reports Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This marks a departure from the recent trend for the Raiders, when desperate needs on the depth chart forced players like Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs, Kolton Miller, Clelin Ferrell, and others onto the field as rookies. The lack of Day 1 and 2 picks combined with a more well-staffed roster puts Las Vegas in a situation wherein they don’t have to rush the development of their rookie class.

The Raiders spent two picks on running backs in April. The team selected Georgia running back Zamir White in the fourth round and UCLA running back Brittain Brown in the seventh. White is a talented back once considered the top recruit in the country at his position in high school. A couple of ACL injuries and a logjammed running backs room in Georgia led to a less impactful career with the Bulldogs than expected, but White still led the team in rushing yards the past two seasons with 779 yards in 2020 and 856 yards in 2021 while scoring 11 touchdowns in each season. Brown had his best season as a freshman at Duke but transferred to UCLA after Deon Jackson took over in Durham. He was the No. 2 running back in a two-back system in Los Angeles both years with Demetric Felton in 2020 and Zach Charbonnet in 2021.

The Raiders’ starting running back job is not up for competition. Even after a down year in 2021, incumbent Josh Jacobs will return as the lead-back in Las Vegas. Kenyan Drake returns as the primary backup, as well. White will likely have a talent edge over Brandon Bolden, but Brown will need to work hard to displace Bolden for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Also on offense, the Raiders spent their first pick of the draft on Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham in the third round and added Ohio State offensive tackle Thayer Munford in the seventh. Parham is an athletic lineman, moving from tight end to the offensive line while redshirting for the Tigers. He started all four seasons after redshirting and worked at left guard, center, right guard, and right tackle during his tenure, starting games at every position except center. Munford was a four-year starter (utilizing his extra year of eligibility granted due to COVID-19) after spending his freshman year as a reserve lineman. He started his sophomore through senior seasons as a tackle, but moved to left guard for his super-senior season.

Parham has the best chance of any of the Vegas rookies to start next year, but certainly won’t be forced to, as the Raiders have some position battles going on within the offensive line. Andre James and Kolton Miller should return to their respective starting positions of center and left tackle. Some combination of John Simpson, Denzelle Good, and Alex Leatherwood are expected to fill out the right tackle and guards positions. Parham could potentially find his way into one of the starting guard spots, depending on how the dominos fall, but more likely will find himself as the sixth-man of the offensive line who can fill in at any position, similar to Patrick Mekari‘s role in Baltimore. Munford on the other hand is cemented a bit further down the depth chart as a reserve tackle. Munford has a lot of the physical tools to become a contributor in the NFL and his situation in Las Vegas will allow him to develop his ability to use those tools over time.

The other two draft picks the Raiders used in 2022 were spent on defensive tackles. The team selected LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. in the fourth round and Tennessee’s Matthew Butler in the fifth. Farrell won a national championship with the 2019 Tigers and went on to use his extra year of eligibility in 2021. Butler played in 52 games for the Volunteers and earned 9.5 sacks during his tenure.

Neither Butler nor Farrell are expected to have much of an impact on the Raiders defensive line this year. Entrenched behind Johnathan Hankins, Bilal Nichols, Kyle Peko, and Vernon Butler on the depth chart, the rookie Butler and Farrell are depth pieces in the middle. If the rookies develop quickly and prove to be more impactful than Peko and the older Butler, they can really get some substantial playing time. As it is, though, the two rookies will find their playing time as reserves for a position that rotates often.

After running through the picks, the initial comment makes a lot of sense. It’s not necessarily that the rookie picks aren’t talented enough to be starters in the NFL, but, with the Raiders’ current roster, there’s no need to force any of their first-year players into a starting role for which they aren’t yet ready.

Latest On Raiders’ O-Line Situation

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.

Raiders OL Alex Leatherwood Getting Reps At RT

The Raiders’ selection of RT Alex Leatherwood with the No. 17 overall pick of the 2021 draft was one of the most-scrutinized choices of last year’s first round. The early returns on Vegas’ investment appeared to prove the naysayers correct, as the Raiders were forced to shift Leatherwood from right tackle to right guard during his rookie season due in large part to his struggles on the edge.

Still, the club’s former regime was reportedly prepared to move the Alabama product back to his original position, and the new Josh McDaniels-led staff is at least willing to entertain the notion. As Tashan Reed of The Athletic writes, the Raiders have been moving Leatherwood around during OTAs, and that includes giving him time at right tackle.

“Each one of the guys up front, we’ve got some guys [at] center and guard, we’ve got some guys playing on the right side and the left side, we’ve got some guys playing tackle and guard,” McDaniels said. “[Playing tackle] was a little bit of a focus of that today for [Leatherwood], but ultimately, we’re going to try to figure out who the best five are that can give us the best chance of success every play. He’s certainly working his butt off right now to try to give us the right stuff wherever we put him. … [Leatherwood] has done a good job. He false-started once today, but that’s going to happen.”

The only major addition that the Raiders made to their O-line this offseason is Dylan Parham, whom the club selected in the third round of last month’s draft. And in keeping with McDaniels’ desire to get his blockers some burn at multiple positions, Parham has been received reps at center even though he is listed as a guard, as Reed reports.

Andre James spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign as the Raiders’ starting pivot following last year’s Rodney Hudson trade, and the former UDFA held his own. It would seem that he and LT Kolton Miller are the only two O-linemen to have a firm grip on their starting jobs, so Parham is likely getting some cross-training at center merely to broaden his skills and to see if he might be an option in the event of a James injury.

With left guard, right guard, and right tackle jobs all there for the taking, the result of the competition this summer between the likes of Parham, Leatherwood, Denzelle Good, Jermaine Eluemunor, John Simpson, Alex Bars, and Brandon Parker could prove to be instrumental to the Raiders’ success in 2022, even if most of the names on that list don’t elicit much enthusiasm from fans of the Silver-and-Black.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/22

Thursday has featured several rookie deals finalized. Here are the mid- and late-round draftees to sign their four-year contracts today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • WR Montrell Washington (fifth round, Samford)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Snoop Conner (fifth round, Ole Miss)
  • CB Gregory Junior (sixth round, Ouachita Baptist)
  • CB Montaric Brown (seventh round, Arkansas)

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans