There are many questions about the Las Vegas Raiders as we head into the 2021 regular season, but the one aspect of this team that is not getting enough attention is the offensive line.
Conventional wisdom about this Jon Gruden era of Las Vegas Raiders football tells us we should be concerned about Gruden himself at the helm and his seeming inability to finish seasons strong. There are also the quarterback questions surrounding Derek Carr, and how far he can really take the Raiders.
Piggybacking off of that is Marcus Mariota lingering about as the backup quarterback who looks as though he has a legitimate shot to be the starter at some point this season.
Heading into 2021, the biggest question is obviously the defense since it has been the clear weakness of this team for several years now. Come to think of it, for as long as I’ve been watching football intently, I can’t really remember off the top of my head the last time the Raiders had a legit defense.
But those questions pale in comparison to those of the offensive line and, subsequently, the running game, since of course, that has been a strength of recent Raider teams, certainly a strength of the Gruden era.
Now, the O-line and run game have quietly taken a hit due to the number of losses suffered this offseason. Not too long ago, the Raiders had any Pro Bowl-rich combination of Donald Penn, Richie Incognito, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown, and Kolton Miller to which now only Miller and Incognito remain, Incognito with his best days behind him too.
That doesn’t go to say what the Raiders have now on the front lines isn’t good. Andre James, John Simpson, Nick Martin, Brandon Parker, and the recently-drafted Alex Leatherwood all have a lot of potential, there’s no doubt about that.
But the arrangement of younger and less-experienced talent on this line is…….”different” rather than alarming. Kolton Miller is the vet now after we’ve known him for so long to be the new guy on the block amongst some of the better offensive linemen I mentioned before.
Perhaps a major strength of the Raiders in their offensive line becomes the antithesis of that in 2021 now that a new crop of youngbloods is set to take over and change the guard.
Raiders offensive line much gel early on
If it is indeed a patchwork job of younger players who need a year to gel together, that could also very well mean we see a regression in Josh Jacobs, a very good back, but a notorious one for being sort of one dimensional at this stage of his young career. Saquon Barkley had his struggles in New York with a bad offensive line and he’s one of the most gifted playmaking backs in all of football.
I suppose I just worry Jacobs could be the benefactor (or whatever the negative connotation of that word is) of an offensive line that is not quite ready yet, perhaps even the weakest line that he’s run behind to date.
This is going to be the key to the Raiders’ success in 2021 because throughout all the craziness and heartbreak from the last two seasons by way of Carr and Gruden and the defense, at least the Raiders had the run game and smash-mouth offensive line to hang their hats on.
Every year, the goal for any team is to win the Super Bowl, but for the 2021 Las Vegas Raiders, what would be considered a successful season?
If that goes away and we get the same old trio of coach-quarterback-defense, the Raiders may be in some serious trouble in 2021.