Thayer Munford

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 RT Brandon Parker Out For Season

The Raiders’ right tackle competition has seen an unfortunate development. Per a team announcement, projected starter Brandon Parker has been placed on injured reserve, ending his 2022 season. 

The 26-year-old was in line to operate with the first team, but suffered an injury which was recently confirmed as being serious. In his absence, Vegas had several options available as replacements, and were subsequently reported to not be eyeing a free agent addition.

Parker has starting experience dating back, primarily, to his rookie season and the 2021 campaign. He re-upped with the team in free agency on a one-year deal worth $3.5MM, a contract which would have given the team a cost-effective lineman and allowed the former third-rounder to earn a more lucrative pact next offseason. Instead, his market will be weighed down by this year-long absence.

For the past few weeks, Vegas has weighed their options at the position, which include veteran Jermaine Eluemunor, seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford and 2021 first-rounder Alex Leatherwood. The latter struggled during his rookie season, resulting in a shift to guard. He has been similarly underwhelming during this offseason, potentially leaving his roster spot in jeopardy despite his age and draft status. Indeed, the team’s braintrust – now featuring GM Dave Ziegler and HC Josh McDaniels – has explored the possibility of trading Leatherwood, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

Between that possibility and a minor ailment for Munford, Eluemunor can be considered the RT favorite at least to start the season. Especially given the expectations surrounding the Raiders, though, that spot (along with the 0-line as a whole) will be heavily scrutinized, particularly if Vegas holds firm on using internal options to replace Parker.

The team also confirmed on Sunday that defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster and linebacker Tae Davis have been placed on IR. Lancaster had been a rotational presence throughout his four-year Packers tenure before signing in May; Davis, meanwhile, primarily played on special teams with the Giants and Browns to begin his career. He missed the 2021 campaign, and had recently been released by the Texans.

Raiders Not Eyeing Free Agent RT Addition

The Raiders did not field a particularly good offensive line in 2021. Despite the franchise hiring a new head coach-GM combination, the group remains relatively unchanged. And the team endured a recent setback; Brandon Parker is battling what is believed to be a significant injury, Tashan Reed of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Parker has not practiced since the Raiders’ preseason opener Aug. 4. The veteran blocker who spent much of last season as the Raiders’ starting right tackle re-signed with the team on a one-year, $3.5MM deal. He continued to work with the first-stringers during the team’s offseason program and into the start of training camp. The Raiders do not view Parker’s injury as season-ending at this point, per Reed, leading to no IR placement. Players can only return from IR if they are carried through to the 53-man roster after the Aug. 30 cutdown day.

The team does have other options here. Alex Leatherwood, who moved to guard early during his rookie season, is the most prominent of those choices. Though, the Alabama product widely viewed as a first-round reach last year was Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time O-lineman in 2021. Still, Josh McDaniels said earlier this summer Leatherwood would be given “every opportunity” to win the job. Veteran Jermaine Eluemunor and seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford, whom the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore notes has made “rapid” improvement, are also in the mix here. Munford, however, also suffered an injury this week.

Parker being sidelined for a chunk of the season opens the door to one of these options, with the others becoming depth pieces or swing options. The Raiders’ initial depth chart has Lester Cotton, a UDFA who has appeared in five career games, positioned as their right guard starter. Leatherwood having a road back to that gig, should he lose the right tackle competition, would make sense.

The team is not ruling out an outside addition, per Bonsignore, who adds a trade should not be discarded as an option. That may well depend on Parker’s timetable. If the team is to add a player in a non-trade capacity, Bonsignore notes a move should be expected on the waiver wire when rosters are slashed from 80 to 53 players in 10 days. But Las Vegas is not actively scouring the free agent market.

Daryl Williams resides as one of the top options available, but Reed adds the Raiders did not view him well as a Bills right tackle last season. The Bills moved Williams to guard during the 2021 slate. Bobby Massie, a longtime Bears starter who was the Broncos’ primary right-edge blocker in 2021, and Brandon Shell (a Jets and Seahawks full-timer during his career) are available as well.

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.

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