An eventful NFL off-season saw many intriguing transactions, acquisitions, and player cuts. At the center of the chaos, the Las Vegas Raiders made their own interesting moves. During free agency, coach Jon Gruden moved starters on the offensive line. Big names traded were guard Gabe Jackson, tackle Trent Brown, and center Rodney Hudson. With new glaring holes heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, Gruden addressed the line in round one, selecting Alabama lineman Alex Leatherwood. Skepticism has already been drawn over the selection, as some scouts had Leatherwood graded as a round two prospect. Gruden moving starters in the trenches means a new line in 2021. However, the question remains as to who will be the projected Raiders offensive line starters for Derek Carr this season.
Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Line: Projected Starters
Left Tackle: Kolton Miller
Miller is a sure starter come Week 1. Signing an extension in the 2021 off-season assures that Miller is the blind-side protector for Derek Carr for at least the next three years. Miller has produced and developed since being a first-round selection in 2018. Starting 46 games in his first three years, Miller looks to continue his success at the position. His $54 million salary with 42 million guaranteed is a nudge from the Raiders to develop into an All-Pro.
Left Guard: Richie Incognito
A controversial veteran, Incognito is probable to return as the starter at left guard. After missing most of 2020 to injury, Incognito re-signed to bolster the inside of the Raiders line. In his first season with the team, Incognito started in 12 contests and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. He also allowed rookie Josh Jacobs to become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Raiders history. If he’s recovered aptly, Incognito will be starting day one for the Raiders in 2021 at his familiar spot.
Center: Andre James/Nick Martin
Being brought in last season, Nick Martin is a solid starter in the NFL. The starting job is certainly a camp battle to watch, as Andre James is Martin’s competition to start. Martin should edge James out as the starter with consistency and experience. With two younger players already on the line, the mature Martin starting at center makes sense. 62 of 64 starts in his four year career bodes well for Martin, however, don’t be surprised to see James impress and possibly dethrone Martin at camp. James received an extension after just one start.
Right Guard: Denzelle Good
After playing in Week 1, Good started every game except for the final one in 2020. The seven-year veteran seems poised to come in and deliver again in 2021. Good received both the attention of fans, and was the Raiders recipient of the Ed Block Courage award in 2019. Good also adds versatility, being able to start elsewhere if another starter gets injured. His high character has led to his own development and could also help younger players on Gruden’s line.
Right Tackle: Alex Leatherwood
General Manager Mike Mayock said before the 2021 NFL Draft that he was excited about the talent on the roster at right tackle. Truth or not, the Raiders drafted Alex Leatherwood at 17th overall, an Alabama prospect at the same position. Linemen aren’t often drafted in round one to sit on the bench, so it’s assumed Leatherwood will see the field Week 1. Leatherwood excelled at Alabama in Nick Saban’s system. Leatherwood has the traits to play left tackle and guard spots, but fills a hole at right tackle for the Raiders. An Outland trophy winner, Leatherwood looks to start and produce at an acceptable rookie level in 2021.
Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders have made moves this off-season that have created more questions than answers. Planning ahead, Gruden seems to have hand picked almost every piece to his protective front. Young talents like Miller and Leatherwood look to impress, while veterans look to lead and maintain the consistency. If Gruden’s offensive line experiment is a success, the Raiders offense could glide into the playoffs on the backs of a new line, Carr, and Jacobs. Conversely, if the chemistry isn’t there in 2021, Gruden could be looking for even more linemen, or worse, a new coaching job.
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