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Raiders preseason: Right tackle is the biggest issue

Jermaine Eluemunor the sleeper to man right tackle? Could cause a ripple effect on offensive line group

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
Jermaine Eluemunor (72) could be protecting quarterback Derek Carr (4) and leading the way in the run game at right tackle.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Carmen Bricillo continues to tinker with his offensive line thanks in large part to injury and effectiveness — or in this case, ineffectiveness. Fortunately for the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line coach, the philosophy of having his lineman learn multiple positions allows his group to be nimble and make necessary adjustments. Versatility has turned out to be equal parts prudent and fortuitous.

Take for example the intriguing first-team group Bricillo trotted out on Tuesday — the opening day of joint practices with the visiting New England Patriots: Kolton Miller (left tackle), Dylan Parham (left guard), Andre James (center), Lester Cotton Jr. (right guard), and Jermaine Eluemunor (right tackle).

Absent from the usual first-team grouping were John Simpson (left guard) and Alex Leatherwood (right tackle). Much has been written and discussed about Leatherwood’s performance on the perimeter and had it not been ailments to Brandon Parker and Thayer Munford, perhaps the competition for the right tackle spot would’ve been fiercer.

Don’t be surprised if Las Vegas’ offensive line groupings fluctuate over the course of the sessions against New England. Bricillo and head coach Josh McDaniels are on a mission to have the best five linemen out there protecting quarterback Derek Carr and paving the way for the ground game. Bricillo himself noted the starting five remains a fluid thing.

“I would say that that’s still something that we’re working on,” the offensive line coach said last week. “I would say nothing is set in stone, truly. I think the players will tell you that as well. Competition is a great thing, it breeds all kinds, brings it all out.”

Thus, in steps Eluemunor at right tackle, a player that head coach Josh McDaniels and Bricillo are very familiar with as the lineman started eight games at right tackle for the Patriots in 2020. The 27-year-old lineman may be a sleeper pick to win the gig, but he comes with the proper mentality and work ethic, one born out of last-chance mindset.

With Parker and Munford missing time, Eluemunor bounced to the blindside in the Raiders preseason tilt against the Miami Dolphins last Saturday due to starting left tackle Kolton Miller not suiting up for the trio of exhibition games thus far. Going from left to right isn’t easy but it harkens on offensive lineman being able to play multiple positions.

“That is a trait, a talent that is not easily gained,” Bricillo said of Eluemunor. “Jermaine has done that for us at other places that we’ve been together, and he will continue to do that here. You need those guys as we keep alluding to. Injuries are going to happen and you can only take eight offensive linemen to a game. So you’re going to need guys that can play multiple positions.”

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills
Daryl Williams is one of the top right tackles available on the free agent market. Williams started the last 33 games at right tackle for the Buffalo Bills.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Options

Of course, with the fluidity of lineups, perhaps Leatherwood gets another go of things at right tackle, along with Munford and Parker — once they’re healthy.

Parker was the early favorite to start on the right side — despite a rough outing at left tackle during the Raiders initial preseason game. Munford garnered snaps with the first-team group at right tackle but there’s a reason he was a late-round draft pick. As Bricillo said, the group at right tackle is a mix of the Clint Eastwood movie The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Ditto for Eluemunor. There’s a lot to like but there are areas of opportunity, too.

Those are the in-house options. The free agent market has a veteran group available and the cut down days (Aug. 23 and Aug. 30) will likely flood the market. Right tackles such as Daryl Williams (Bills) and Marcus Cannon (Texans) are the top three free agent at the position group. Williams started the last 33 games at right tackle in Buffalo while Cannon is a former long-time Patriot who saw just four starts in Houston last season.

As with any player added, there will be acclimation time and assimilation to the Raiders’ scheme. Fortunately, Las Vegas is still in preseason mode and has time before the Week 1 clash at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Ripple Effect

There’s a ripple effect of Eluemunor winning the gig on the right side.

Las Vegas could dabble in moving Leatherwood back to right guard to compete with Cotton. Leatherwood looked more comfortable at guard in his rookie campaign last year while Cotton experienced his own growing pains against Miami.

Parham and Simpson are duking out to start at the left guard spot. Parham does offer position versatility to move inside to pivot, if needed, but has seen more action at left guard spot recently.

Miller and James are seemingly the only two solidified starters on Bricillo’s offensive line.