The Las Vegas Raiders overhauled their offensive line ahead of the 2021 season and we can count PFF among the doubters of the new-look unit.
One of the bigger storylines this offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders has been the near-complete overhaul of the offensive line. What was once one of the best, and more importantly highest paid, units in the NFL is now a unit with plenty of ability but lots of question marks for those on the outside looking in.
The doubters include Pro Football Focus who recently released their rankings of offensive line units and put the Raiders near the bottom of the NFL at 26th. PFF ranked them behind every other AFC West team including a Chargers unit that is replacing 4 out of 5 starters including starting a rookie at left tackle which is a notoriously difficult position to play at the NFL level.
The primary reasoning behind the low ranking is the same thing we have been hearing all offseason, the replacement of veteran players with relative unknowns and in the case of the RT spot, a rookie first-rounder.
PFF’s blurb on the Raiders mentions that “the Raiders moved on from three solid starters this offseason, so the pressure is on their young players to develop and the veterans to improve to match where this unit was just two years ago before last season’s injuries”.
Pundits like Bill Barnwell of ESPN and other national media reporters only see that the Raiders replaced three out of five “solid” starters from 2020 in moves that they find difficult to understand for some reason. The trade of Trent Brown was heavily criticized by many and some called it the worst move of the team’s offseason but the talented tackle was never on the field enough to justify his massive salary.
He was more than “solid” when on the field but that was not very often.
As for Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson, one trade was to move on from a guard that was making close to $10 million and was poor by PFF’s own ranking with a rating of 63.7 in 2020 and 61 in 2019. As for Rodney Hudson, his move was spurred by the trade of Jackson, and even he was beginning to slip in the run game, perhaps due to age and workload.
While it is fair to have some questions about the replacements the Raiders have brought in or elevated to the starting role, there is still a very good mix of veteran savvy and youthful exuberance on this unit. The Raiders simply could not run it back with the 2020 unit after all of the injuries and issues in the run game so they went younger and cheaper as teams often do but are being lambasted for it.
The Raiders have been good evaluators and developers of offensive line talent in recent years with the play of Kolton Miller and Denzelle Good as examples of both. Even the selection of John Simpson in the fourth round of 2020 has given the Raiders a player that projects as a longtime NFL starter.
Tom Cable has done a great job in Las Vegas and he and this coaching staff deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the offensive line.