Let’s look at the changes and whether the Raiders can actually be improved this year on the unit.
Raiders’ general manager Mike Mayock recently said he thinks the line is getting younger, more athletic and faster. But will it be better?
2021 starter: Kolton Miller
2020 starter: Miller, again
Will it be better? Yes, I think it will be. Miller is going into his fourth season and he is entering his prime. He is still improving, so the Raiders will be better at left tackle this season.
2021 starter: Richie Incognito
2020 starter: Incognito/Denzelle Good
Will it be better? If Incognito can still get it done at age 38 and stay healthy after missing 14 games, it has a chance to be better. But second-year player John Simpson is on standby just in case.
2021 starter: Andre James
2020 starter: Rodney Hudson
Will it be better? It would be disingenuous to say “yes.” Hudson is one of the best centers in the league. James has very little experience. The Raiders believe in James and he needs to quickly develop or there may be some issues on the line.
2021 starter: Denzelle Good
2020 starter: Gabe Jackson
Will it be better? I like Good. I think he’s underrated, but I don’t think he’s quite at Jackson’s level. I know Jackson may be slowing down, but he’s still solid. Still, Good will be fine. I don’t think the downgrade is steep.
2021 starter: Leatherwood
2020 starter: Trent Brown
Will it be better? Leatherwood will likely have the typical rookie ups and downs. At this point, there is no comparison to Brown and Leatherwood. But Brown was hardly on the field last season and played just five games. So the downgrade may not be that huge from 2020 at right tackle.
The key to Tom Cable’s unit’s success in 2021 is health. The Raiders can’t afford to put any more inexperienced players in the starting lineup. If Incognito can stay healthy and James and Leatherwood can develop quickly, the unit should be in OK shape. But all of these things have to happen. The margin for error is slight.