There have been a lot of discussions recently about Alex Leatherwood’s future with the Las Vegas Raiders. A new regime with no ties to previous first-round picks is likely to have a shorter leash, despite that player’s salary and the recent investment into him.
The discussions going on within the Raiders building are on the future of Alex Leatherwood due to a string of poor play and the inability to beat out anyone to start at right tackle.
Leatherwood has played poorly, that is obvious. He is once again trying to play right tackle after being moved to guard after four games last season. Leatherwood has lagged behind Brandon Parker, Thayer Munford, and Jermaine Eluemunor all offseason and it is quite obvious as to why.
Why the Raiders should hang on to Alex Leatherwood
Leatherwood is a young, raw player. While he has a lot of experience, he lacks fundamentals and technique. In college, he bounced around several positions but was able to play well due to his high-end physical talent.
Leatherwood consistently faced NFL quality pass rush but was able to benefit from good coaching and his strength to hold up. Leatherwood was a second-round prospect that went in the first round due to the Raiders’ signature reaching, but there is a ton of physical talent there.
The problem with Leatherwood is his hand placement and lack of confidence. Leatherwood is now under his 3rdoffensive line coach in 3 seasons, and Tom Cable is considered a poor offensive line coach, despite the development of Kolton Miller.
In Seattle, Cable dismantled a solid group and was eventually fired after having one of the worst units in the NFL for years. He did the same in Las Vegas. Cable inherited one of the best offensive lines in football and by year 3 was unable to develop young linemen to replace aging and expensive veterans, hence why the line was so bad last season.
Carmen Bricillo, the new offensive line coach, has been tasked with helping Leatherwood, but the coaching staff never really gave him a vote of confidence. Leatherwood’s confidence being so depleted has clearly translated to games.
He is thinking too much and being reactive rather than proactive in his technique. Leatherwood would greatly benefit from sitting for a season and learning and regaining his confidence. The Raiders previous staff destroyed Leatherwood. The Raiders have been mostly poorly coached for the better part of 15 years, and the previous staff was atrocious.
Many of the Raiders’ young players will improve greatly over the next 12 months.
Another big problem with Leatherwood is that he simply is not a tackle. While the draft position is notable because of the value of tackles, Leatherwood may simply be better as a guard. Leatherwood’s strengths are in the run game, where he is a mauler and can use his athleticism to move people.
At tackle, he is often left on an island and his technique is exposed against speed rushers. Leatherwood has all of the skills to develop into a quality guard, similar to Robert Gallery in the mid-2000s.
The Raiders shouldn’t cut Leatherwood because it is a poor business move. Cutting Leatherwood would leave a massive dead cap hit on the team and releasing a former first-round pick just 1 season in is simply giving up on the player too early. The Raiders’ young player pipeline is already struggling.
The Raiders released both of their 2020 first-round picks less than 2 seasons in due to excruciating circumstances, but they shouldn’t do that with Leatherwood. Players need an opportunity to develop and giving up on a high pick this soon into his career can be crippling, especially after their recent draft hauls.
With expectations set and the season fast approaching, here are three keys to the Raiders returning to the playoffs in 2022.
The Raiders need to do whatever they can to salvage this draft pick because it will cause talent depletion in years to come. The Raiders should start Leatherwood at guard in the middle of the season, and reinvest in his talent.