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FSM Presents: 2021 Raiders Position Preview – Offensive Line

Franchise Sports Media


The final unit of the 2021 Las Vegas Raiders offense we are looking at here at Franchise Sports Media is the offensive line. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the single biggest question mark of the Raiders offense this season. As solid as the skill position pieces appear to be on paper, how truly great this offense and in many ways this team, hinges on how quickly these men bind together as a unit.


Raiders Preview
Photo Credit:

So before the current players are covered, we have to step back and look at the men lost. First and foremost, the absolute heartbeat of the Raiders offensive line since he signed as a free agent back in 2015, Rodney Hudson. Dealt to the Cardinals in a shocking March trade, Hudson was a three-time Pro Bowler in his six seasons in Silver and Black. You don’t just lose the caliber of player, but the great leader and man he was. No matter how it is spun, that is not an easy loss to absorb.

The next loss was the mercurial Trent Brown. A player who had absolutely fallen out of favor with Raider Nation, Brown only played in 16 of 32 games with the Raiders, though he did manage to still make the Pro Bowl in just 11 starts in 2019. Out of shape and accused by some (though not this writer) of being a malingerer, Brown was traded to the New England Patriots and a 2022 7th round pick for a 2022 5th round pick. The silver (and black) lining here is that because Brown missed half of his games, the Raiders were accustomed to playing without him the last two years. The dark lining is that, well, Trent Brown is still a damn good football player when he is right. And I am banking on him being right back in Foxborough.


The third and final starter the Raiders will be replacing in 2021 is Gabe Jackson. One of the last Reggie McKenzie mainstays, Jackson has been a starter since being drafted in the third round of the lone great McKenzie haul in 2014. Along with Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, Jackson helped the Raiders form a nucleus that peaked with their 2016 playoff berth. Jackson was dealt to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2021 5th round pick.


So, 60 percent of the Raiders offensive line was traded in a span of about two weeks. Just like that. It netted the team a 3rd round pick and a 5th round pick this year and another 5th round pick next year. The two players taken this year were edge rusher Malcolm Koonce and cornerback Nate Hobbs. We can only hope they don’t end up being the John Bowie’s of recent Raider trade history.


Alright, so let us make it like Mark McGwire and focus on the 2021 version of this line.

Projected starters:

Left tackle- Kolton Miller

Left guard- Richie Incognito

Center – Andre James

Right guard – Denzelle Good

Right tackle – Alex Leatherwood


Projected reserves:

Nick Martin

Brandon Parker

John Simpson

Sam Young


Raiders Preview
Photo Credit: Carolina Panthers

Starting from the left, and that is fitting because the one player who is a slam dunk to be in their spot come Monday night, September 13th, against the Baltimore Ravens will be Kolton Miller. Quietly, Miller has risen from a disastrous first year in 2018 to quickly become an upper-echelon left tackle in the NFL. There are a lot of Raiders fans and football fans at large that would have lost major money if you had bet that three years after the 2018 draft, the Raiders anchor on the offensive line would be Miller, but here we are.

Here is where it starts to get a little interesting. Richie Incognito is absolutely penciled in to be the starting left guard in 2021. The problem, though, is twofold. One, Incognito is coming off a pretty nagging Achilles injury that short-circuited his 2020 season. And two, he is 38 years old. To be fair, the last time we saw him play over an extended period, he was pretty damn good in 2019. But 36 to 38 is aging like dog years in football terms, especially at a position like offensive guard.

Of all the starters, this is the one I worry about the most in terms of health. Quietly, he has missed 16 of 30 possible starts due to injury (Incognito was suspended the first two games of 2019).


Raiders vs Panthers Raiders vs Patriots
Photo Credit: Brian Blanco/AP

Now first, the first of two potential landmine spots. The starting center is expected to be 24 years old Andre James. The third-year lineman from UCLA has played sparingly, most notably starting one game against the Detroit Lions in 2019. He also filled in for an injured Hudson the week prior against the Houston Texans. By far, this is the most critical change for the Raiders. James can’t be reasonably expected to perform at the level of Rodney Hudson.

The hope is that his learning curve isn’t too steep, and the Raiders get more of the production in the running game he managed to provide in his brief playing time. It is not an exaggeration to say if James falls on his face, the line could drastically suffer as a result.

At right guard is veteran Denzelle Good. Acquired from the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, Good has been quite a reclamation project for line coach Tom Cable, starting 22 games over the last 2+ seasons, including a career-high 14 starts in 2020. The largest starter at 340 pounds, Good is part of the evident move by the team to get bigger and more mobile on the line to help in the running game. I am actually a fan of his game and am not nearly as worried about the full-time replacement of Gabe Jackson as other people might be.


Last but certainly not least is right tackle, Alex Leatherwood.


Raiders Preview
Photo Credit: Montgomery Advertiser

The rookie the Raiders controversially selected with the 17th overall draft selection in the 2021 draft. Immediately, comparisons were made to Clelin Ferrell being taken too highly at number four overall in 2019 and Damon Arnette too highly at number 19 overall in 2020. And honestly, it is not an invalid concern, in my opinion. The jury is out on Leatherwood, who has to prove right away that he is not just an NFL-caliber right tackle but good enough to replace a Pro Bowler like Trent Brown.

Truthfully, that is not the end of the concern for that position. The real fear, and I know I am not alone in this, would be the Raiders having to turn potentially to Brandon Parker to play extended time. For the moderate improvement Parker did show in 2020, the reality was, he still often looked like a guy who did not belong on an NFL roster. Leatherwood should bring immediately the ability to run block, which should be the immediate order of business for this unit.

The potential insurance lies in 2020 4th round draft pick John Simpson, who will hopefully be challenging both Incognito and Good for a starting spot this year and likely have one in 2022. Simpson looked really raw at times in 2021 and likely needs more polishing to be fully ready.


Raiders vs Chargers
Photo Credit: Indianapolis Star

The other intriguing player is former Texans starting center Nick Martin. Considering the Raiders committed four million dollars to Andre James, it will take quite a drop-off for him not to be the starter. But Martin represents a premium backup at a vital position and someone more than capable of being ready in a pinch. Because of this, I expect rookie center Jimmy Morrissey, someone I actually think was a sneaky good pick late in the draft, to start on the practice squad.

The other two players I anticipate making the initial roster are Parker and veteran tackle Sam Young. Ultimately, experience both in the league and in Cable’s system will win out for Young, who has been average in his moments to fill in. Will it work out? I believe it will be the question that ultimately decides if this team returns to the postseason for the first time in five years.


We will now turn to the biggest question mark for Raiders, again, the defense. Joe Arrigo will start upfront the defensive line. Keep tapping in the Franchise Sports Media for your Raiders preview.


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CJ Baldwin – Franchise Sports Media

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