Alex Leatherwood did well to get in prime physical shape this offseason which bode well for a Year 2 jump. Based on what the 2021 first-round pick showcased on Saturday against the Miami Dolphins, however, the Las Vegas Raiders right tackle has seemingly fallen off the cliff.
Beaten soundly out the game on the Silver & Black’s initial offensive drive, Leatherwood looked more undrafted free agent in his first NFL action (albeit preseason) than a high-hopes opening-round high draft selection. Outside the first two plays, Leatherwood got bullied into the backfield right into the quarterback and then out-raced around the corner resulting in an easy sack for the Dolphins.
But Saturday’s performance against the Dolphins is about as ugly as you can get for Leatherwood. Check out how Miami’s Porter Gustin used his speed to dust Leatherwood to to drop Nick Mullens:
The right tackle spot is bleak as of this moment. Leatherwood is healthy and out there while competitors Brandon Parker (ailing) and Thayer Munford (also ailing) didn’t play against Miami. Jermaine Eluemunor — another viable option at right based on history with both Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive line boss Carmen Bricillo — started at left tackle with Kolton Miller staying behind in Las Vegas with a slew of expected starters/contributors. The tinkering of the right tackle spot is far from done.
There’s growing pains, which McDaniels spoke about during his media session on Sunday, then there’s what happened to Leatherwood.
“Consistency. I’ve said this before, there are a lot of guys that are out there trying to improve and get better,” McDaniels said on coaches aiding player growing pains. “An offensive line, the unit itself, is really a collective heartbeat if you will. When one man does something that maybe is not exactly what we want, then it’ll affect the other four guys. Usually, when that unit plays well, it’s the result of all five of them – probably plus the tight ends – doing their job the right way, with the right technique and fundamentals.
“So just staying consistent with what we’re trying to do. We need to approach each day as an opportunity to get better and improve those things. But repetition, good repetition on the practice field is where you build good habits. There’s no shortcut to it. We just have to put the work in and stay consistent with our effort.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as Dolphins edge rushers beat Leatherwood around the corner:
—Tashawn Bower stacked up another solid performance with a sack and two stops for loss against Miami. He showcased the ability to snuff out the run, maintain edge discipline, and rush the passer in the Raiders preseason wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Dolphins. The string of performances, and perhaps the familiarity with McDaniels, may lead to a roster spot.
“He’s doing his job the right way and he’s setting a good example for the way we try to play on the edge with his opportunities,” McDaniels said of Bower during the postgame press conference. “He rushed the quarterback and used his power tonight.”
—Rookie cornerback Sam Webb tied for the team-lead in total tackles (six) and solo stops (five). The undrafted free agent displayed sound anticipation and reaction time when he pounced on a pass and delivered a hit that forced the fumble and recovered said loose ball. It should’ve been a scoop and score for Webb, but the play was blown dead.
—The Raiders run defense limited the Dolphins’ ground attack to 37 yards on 18 carries (a paltry 2.1 yards average). The return of nose tackle Johnathan Hankins (two total tackles) helped tremendously as the space-eating run stuffer got to get snaps in before the regular season.
—Las Vegas’ rushing attack, in comparison, churned out an impressive 144 yards on 25 carries (5.8 yards average) with a touchdown. Rookie Brittain Brown’s 36-yard gallop being the longest run on Saturday.
—Curtis Bolton forcing an intentional grounding resulting in a safety in the second quarter of Saturday’s win should open eyes. Especially considering the depleted depth the Raiders have at linebacker. Like so many others, special teams may be Bolton’s ticket to a roster spot.
—Amik Robertson seemed to be turning a corner in practices, however, when it comes to in-game situations, the cornerback leaves plenty to be desired. It’s almost two different players when it’s practice and team sessions versus against another squad.