With one preseason game in the books, the Las Vegas Raiders and head coach Jon Gruden have some tape to work with to use to evaluate the roster ahead of the 2021 season.
Even though preseason is mostly used to take longer looks at players on the cusp of making the roster, it is also a time for coaches like Gruden to get eyes on rookies or young players that may have roles for the team in the regular season. In the Raiders case, everyone will be interested in seeing how the defense and offensive line look after an overhaul in the offseason.
Las Vegas made the decision to completely retool its offensive line, with players like Andre James and Alex Leatherwood stepping in as starters. So far, Gruden seems pleased with the tape though he admitted there are naturally things to clean up.
“Pretty good,” Gruden said. “Andre off to a good start. I think Alex, same thing. We got to clean up some of our rules, but all-in-all a really good start. That opening drive I think was 14 plays and I think as I said the other night we converted a number of third downs, somebody had to be blocking.”
James is a largely unproven center who has played sparingly for the Raiders, filling in when injuries occurred and capably filling in. James has large shoes to fill as he is coming in for Rodney Hudson, whom Las Vegas traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Leatherwood is the first-round pick taking over for Trent Brown, who was sent back to the New England Patriots. The rookie looked decent in his first taste of game action, though he did seem to struggle in pass protection at times.
Fortunately for James and Leatherwood, they have two more preseason games to get acclimated, and Gruden will be busy trying to make sure the pair get up to speed. However, there seems to be optimism within the organization that the o-line will be just fine despite their inexperience as a group.