The Las Vegas Raiders’ offensive line has been the team’s biggest question mark since before the season and after a 0-3 start, the unit is still not completely settled.
Sunday, the Raiders used their seventh lineup in the games with Kolton Miler at left tackle, Alex Bars (elevated from the practice squad for the game) at left guard, rookie Dylan Parham at center, Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard and rookie Thayer Munford at right tackle. It could change again this week if center Andre James can return from a two-game absence because of a concussion. Parham would likely move to a guard spot. With Bars and and Munford in the lineup against the Titans, guards John Simpson and Lester Cotton were benched.
The unit had its moments Sunday and quarterback Derek Carr was sacked just once. Monday, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels expressed hope for the unit.
“Yeah, look, that’s a good defensive front first of all, and we know what kind of players [Jeffery] Simmons is and [Denico] Autry and they have some guys that can really do a good job in the running game and in the pass rush,” McDaniels said. “I thought we ran the ball effectively, albeit not as much as we would like to because the score gets flipped on us again. So, I think the ability to avoid negative runs, that was a good day. Didn’t have much of that at all. The pass protection generally was decent.
“When you throw it 40 some times against that rush, there’s going to be some pressures and we had the one sack there before half. But all in all, I thought they worked well as a unit together. I thought they passed off some things well, I thought we double teamed well. There were definitely some positives and again we got to look at that and try to build on the good things and then improve some of the things that we allowed to happen. And they got in there and had a little pressure on Derek [Carr] there in the second half when it was more of a pass, pass, pass mode. Again, part of our issue is, if we would stay out of that situation, then we wouldn’t put ourselves in that issue. But overall, I thought it was a positive step for them.”
McDaniels was also encouraged by the play of Parham and Munford. Having 40 percent of the line being rookies could pay off in the long run. Parham was a third-round pick and Munford was a seventh-round choice.
“You know, I try to avoid expectations in terms of timelines and those kinds of things because I allow those things that happen organically with each player,” McDaniels said. “Every guy is different. We certainly liked both players when we drafted him, and I don’t think they’ve let us down at all. They work hard, they’re prepared. They practice hard. They’ve been out there every day other than when Thayer [Munford] had the issue with the (concussion) protocol in training camp.”
“ And so, they’ve earned the opportunity to go out there and keep playing because of what they keep doing in practice. I feel like both of them represented themselves well. Like I said, there was the one sack there in the two-minute drive that we kind of got edged on the short side with Thayer, but I mean, look, there’s a lot of good players up there. They’re doing a good job of blocking them for the most part. We didn’t have a lot of mental errors on the offensive line yesterday relative to our overall communication, who we are going to, our assignments, and they’re competing and fighting their butt off. So, I mean as a coach what else am I going to ask from them, other than to prepare hard, practice well, and go out there and compete as hard as they can on every play that they’re in there for. And it was a good start for both of them to be in there together and then play the entirety of the game. And like I said, I think they gave us an opportunity to win.”