How badly do the Raiders really need O-line help?
Discussing the right tackle situation.
If there’s one area of weakness, specifically on the offensive line, it’s right tackle. However, like the rest of the line, how much of weakness is it?
Alex Leatherwood is slated to be the team’s starting right tackle in 2022. Most of Raider Nation will be frightened from simply seeing the words ‘Alex Leatherwood’ and ‘right tackle’ in the same sentence after his atrocious ’21 performance at the position, but this may just be a new Leatherwood.
After struggling at tackle his rookie year, the Raiders switched Leatherwood to right guard in hopes the first-round draft pick would turn the corner. Fortunately for Las Vegas, the plan worked and Leatherwood improved every week. Through the preseason, it seems evident that the Alabama alum has taken what he’s learned at right guard and successfully applied it back to the tackle position.
After contests against the Jaguars and Vikings, Leatherwood has a pass blocking grade right around 60. He hasn’t given up a sack, nor has he committed a penalty. The no-penalty stat is a major development, even if it is just through two games of preseason play. Last year, only two linemen committed more penalties than Leatherwood, as the versatile lineman was flagged on 14 occasions.
That pass blocking grade of 60 is an unbelievable improvement as well, despite it being the preseason. Last year, Leatherwood allowed 8 sacks on 65 pressures. As a result, the Raiders’ offensive lineman earned an almost unrealistically low pass blocking grade of 29.0.
Through both camp and the preseason duels, this looks like a much improved Alex Leatherwood. If it isn’t a much improved first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, Las Vegas might’ve found something in Thayer Munford.
Munford has had a solid camp and even earned the start at right tackle against the Vikings on Sunday. The seventh-round pick impressed, posting a pass blocking grade of 72.3. He also didn’t allow his quarterback to be touched once on 40 pass-blocking snaps.
On Wednesday’s 1-on-1 drills, Munford went toe-to-toe with All-Pro Maxx Crosby. This was the talk of the day, and not because of why you might think. On the snap, Munford used his massive body to wall out Crosby and create a cushion between the two. Crosby then tried to pull a counter move on the rookie, but Munford wasn’t having it. The seventh-round pick was ready and easily won this rep.
If you know Maxx Crosby, you know exactly how impressive winning this rep is. Not because he’s an All-Pro who led the league in pressures last season via PFF (ok, maybe this is part of why it’s so impressive), but because Crosby is well noted for going all out on every play of each drill and scrimmage game.
Whether Munford or Leatherwood starts at right tackle, it’s hard to not be an improvement from Brandon Parker last year. Parker gave up 8 sacks on 556 pass-blocking snaps, surrendering only 13 fewer pressures than Leatherwood on 152 fewer opportunities.
All in all, the right tackle position appears to be serviceable – a gigantic leap forward from Parker’s ’21 performance, if nothing else. Will it be a strength on the line? No, in all likelihood it will be one of the weaker positions, but it doesn’t have to be a strength. The position only needs to stray away from being a liability; if camp and preseason hold any weight at all, both players in the mix aren’t one.