The Las Vegas Raiders made headlines with their decision to uproot the offensive line this offseason with the departure of Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown, and Rodney Hudson.
Although there was some initial uncertainty on a potential successor at center for Hudson, the coaching staff has already pegged Andre James as the heir apparent up front. Despite their confidence in James, there are still concerns over his lack of experience in protecting quarterback Derek Carr.
Filling in for a three-time Pro Bowler in Hudson will be no easy task for James. Regardless, praise from his teammates indicates that he is more than up to the task.
It appears even Carr is among them. He feels his familiarity with James will pay some major dividends leading up to the 2021 NFL season.
“Yeah, this is the first time in seven year, six years that I’ve had a different center, so that’ll be new,” Carr said. “But really during the season when Rodney would practice on Wednesdays, I was with Andre anyway. Andre started a game for us, and Andre is a good player. Obviously, time will tell for him, what he’s going to be. And he’ll let his play do that talking, but he’s a heck of player and I’m excited about him. Trust wise, we’ve had a lot of injuries on our offensive line throughout the years, so I’ve played with a lot of these guys already. It’s not like I’m looking at new faces that I’ve never seen before. I’ve played with these guys. Especially with the caliber of players they are. They’re really good football players and we have [offensive line] Coach [Tom] Cable. He’s going to make sure we’re ready to play.”
There is no question that the departure of Hudson will be a significant change for Carr after taking snaps from him for his career. While building the same kind of chemistry on the field is not something that will happen overnight, his praise for James indicates he is more than up to the challenge.
Veteran guard Richie Incognito shared much of the same optimism about the changes that occurred inside this offseason. He credited James’ performance versus the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions during the 2019 campaign as positive signs of what is to come.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable even suggested that James possessed similar traits to former three-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger. If he ultimately proves unable to do the job, the Raiders still have another contingency plan in Nick Martin after adding him to free agency.