Most of the Las Vegas Raiders‘ position groups look much improved this season. The defense as a whole is better and the wide receivers are all playing at a high level. The position group that has taken the biggest step back is the offensive line.
The Raiders have been known to have a strong offensive line over the last several years outside of Jon Gruden’s first season with the team in 2018. The team has spent big money in the past ensuring that they can protect the quarterback. This offseason, Las Vegas overhauled the group and traded away three starters. They used a first-round pick on right tackle Alex Leatherwood, who replaced Pro Bowl veteran Trent Brown. Unfortunately, he’s arguably been the team’s worst offensive lineman.
Things are going so poorly for Leatherwood that it appears the team is already giving up on him at right tackle. According to Tashan Reed of The Athletic, he’s been moved to right guard and Brandon Parker is taking over at right tackle.
It may not be the best move for Leatherwood’s development if they’re expecting him to go back to right tackle in the future. That said, the Raiders are in win-now mode and can’t continue with the horrific offensive line play.
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Leatherwood Having Historically Bad Season
Leatherwood hasn’t just been bad. He’s on pace to have one of the worst rookie seasons for an offensive lineman in decades. Through four games, he’s allowed four sacks, committed six penalties and allowed six quarterback hits. In addition to that, he’s the lowest graded pass blocking rookie tackle through four games since 2006, per Pro Football Focus.
Obviously, it’s only been four games and the Raiders have faced some elite defenses. Leatherwood has had to block players like Joey Bosa and T.J. Watt. That’s certainly a tall order for a rookie. However, his play has just been too poor. Perhaps a move to guard is what he needs and the Raiders can address right tackle in the offseason. It will be very interesting to see how this whole situation plays out.
Kolton Miller & Leatherwood’s Situations Are Vastly Different
Leatherwood’s early struggles have often been compared to that of left tackle Kolton Miller. The 2018 first-round pick had a horrific rookie year and allowed 16 sacks. Now, Miller looks like one of the better tackles in the NFL and has yet to give up a sack this season.
Leatherwood could have a similar trajectory but his situation is far different than Miller’s. The left tackle was considered raw when he was coming out of UCLA. Leatherwood was supposed to be much more polished. He started 48 games for a powerhouse Alabama team. He was consistently facing some of the toughest competition in college football. If there was any offensive line prospect in the draft who was ready for the NFL, it should’ve been Leatherwood. Also, Miller was dealing with an MCL injury for most of his rookie season and that’s when his struggles became apparent. Leatherwood still has a chance to be a solid player but comparing him to Miller doesn’t work.