Raiders Sign Marcus Mariota’s College Teammate, Ex-Bears Starting Center

hronis grasu marcus mariota

Getty Hronis Grasu with Marcus Mariota.

After early-season struggles, the Las Vegas Raiders‘ offensive line is starting to show some signs of life. The team faced the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and didn’t allow a single sack for the time this season. They’ve still allowed the ninth most sacks in the NFL with 17 but are heading in the right direction.

As the season has gone on, the depth on the offensive line has been tested. Starting right guard Denzelle Good is down for the year with a torn ACL while left guard Richie Incognito has yet to take a snap after suffering a calf injury in training camp. It remains to be seen if he’ll actually play this season. The Raiders recently lost some depth on the practice squad when rookie Jimmy Morrissey was poached by the Houston Texans. However, the team has been able to replace him.

Las Vegas announced that they’ve signed Hroniss Grasu to the practice squad.

Grasu was a third-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2015 and started eight games at center as a rookie before getting injured. He has yet to find a consistent starting job since his rookie year. He came into the NFL as a center but could likely be moved to guard if necessary. With John Simpson getting hurt against the Eagles, the Raiders may need some help at guard. Grasu has played in 27 career games so provides a solid level of experience.

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Grasu Played With Marcus Mariota in College

The most notable thing about the Raiders signing of Grasu is that he played with backup quarterback Marcus Mariota in college at Oregon. In fact, the two were both drafted in the 2015 class. During his time at Oregon, Grasu was a two-time first-team All-American and was their starting center during Mariota’s Heisman Trophy campaign in 2014.

At that time, it would’ve been hard to imagine that either would be backups seven years later. Though Mariota has only played two snaps this season, it’s interesting that the Raiders would bring in his former center. It could just be a coincidence but the two should still have some rapport after their excellent run at Oregon.

Andre James Stepping up in Recent Weeks

In a perfect world for the Raiders, they’ll never need Grasu to see the field. The team took a gamble this offseason by trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson and replacing him with Andre James, who had made one start previously. Things were rocky at first as James was Pro Football Focus‘ lowest-graded center for several weeks. However, he’s playing much better recently.

Against the Eagles, James posted a 77.0 grade, which was the fourth-best by a Raiders offensive player.

The Raiders already handed James a contract extension in the offseason so it would be good for them if he panned out. So far, it looks like he’s on an upward trajectory. What once looked like one of the worst moves of the offseason could end up making the Raiders look like geniuses if James keeps improving.

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