According to some fans and media, the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line was a weakness entering free agency. Their play on the field helped create the expectation for an overhaul based on their performance last season.
Where the free agency rumor mill begins is the combine, and the Raiders' connection to offensive line free agents was minimal. Teams were ready to pounce on players such as Alex Cappa, but the Silver and Black’s front office and the coaching staff had a different plan of action.
The Raiders wanted to give the young players a shot. But new coach Josh McDaniels made a strong point Monday at the NFL owner’s meetings that he believes in his group.
"I think we have a lot of players there that are not at their ceiling yet," McDaniels said. "I feel pretty good about the group that we have, and now our job in the short term here is to try to coach them, get them to play better, each group, each man to play better, and that's what I'll focus on."
The talent on the offensive line is there with high draft picks across the board. Kolton Miller and Alex Leatherwood are both first-round picks, with the NFL higher on the former than draft media. John Simpson's RAS score is one of the best you see from a guard.
The notion of coaching the players to their potential is not lost on the new head coach.
"Again, our job will now be to work like hell to improve the guys we have," McDaniels said after being asked the same question. "The guys we have on the roster right now are competitive, and we're going to try to coach them and improve them, and that's our job. If we can't make the players on our team better, then we got to do something different."
The signing of Alex Bars was the one addition to the group that was not on the 2021 roster. The re-signings of Jermaine Eluemunor and Brandon Parker display how they want to keep the young core together.
Eluemunor familiarity with the coaching staff played a big part in his return to Las Vegas. Parker's versatility at both tackle spots made him a fit for a swing tackle role.
"When you're putting that group together, you can't just put a bunch of one-trick ponies together. So, Parker, can he swing? Yes. Jermaine has guard, tackle flexibility. You never know in this day and age, what you're going need, and you certainly can't go in there with a bunch of one position players."
McDaniels believes in Carmen Bricillo, an understudy of the legendary Dante Scarnecchia. Bricillio dealt with injuries during last season, deploying ten different offensive line groups the first six weeks. He was resilient and found a way to put the right lineup together to help on a playoff run, with backups such as Ted Karras earning good paydays.
If the Raiders can maximize the talent of the young players, the team could have a great offensive line for the next three years. Hopefully, it all doesn't backfire the other way.