Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. It’s an age-old idiom but is apt for the Las Vegas Raiders — particularly at the left tackle position.
Kolton Miller developed into a stalwart blindside protector overcoming injury his rookie year which sapped his effectiveness. But since then, the 6-foot-8, 325pound UCLA product has settled in as the anchor on the Silver & Black offensive line and validated his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (15th overall).
Miller isn’t one to toot his own horn, but he’s emphatically answered the concerns about him playing to upright to be on an island at left tackle and he’s effective as a run blocker, too. Miller is also a durable offensive lineman starting all regular season games in all but two seasons — 2020 (two games missed) and 2022 (one game missed).
Which beckons a key question: Who is Miller’s backup at left tackle?
This is something the Raiders must identify in training camp. Last season Jackson Barton was the initial backup left tackle. He’s since signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent, thus creating a spot behind Miller.
We were given a solid view of the Raiders pecking order at left tackle when Miller did miss the team’s Week 11 22-16 win over the Denver Broncos. Usual right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor shifted over to the left side with then-rookie Thayer Munford Jr. elevating to start at right. So, perhaps, that again can be the deployment this coming season.
But it would be best to earmark a true backup to Miller, instead of doing the offensive line shuffle — just in case something were to happen with Eluemunor (or another starting right tackle) which would make the shift inoperable.
Of the group of eight offensive linemen who can play tackle, the majority are candidates for the right side with Eluemunor and Munford slated to duke it out for the starting gig at RT. Let’s take a look at the options:
A former New England Patriot that the Raiders regime traded for (a 2024 sixth-round pick went East for Herron and a 2024 seventh-round selection), the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder played in only one game before an ACL tear in practice in October ended his year.
Herron focused on the right side during his Raiders tenure, however, he started out as a left tackle in New England, so he’s got the experience (playing 28 total games in New England with 10 starts). With Las Vegas having Eluemunor and Munford on the right side, a switch back to the blindside is likely in store for Herron.
He does have the versatility Raiders offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo prefers and has experience at both left and right tackle. He has the athleticism to mirror defenders, however, his hand usage remains a work in progress despite being in the league for three seasons. Herron isn’t a multiple game starter caliber lineman at this point. The 27-year-old is a swing tackle candidate and is one of the better options as the backup on the blindside.
Taken in the same draft class as Miller, this 6-foot-8, 320-pound North Carolina A&T product was taken in the third round (65th overall) as a developmental prospect. Parker’s focus as a Raider is on the right side and he was competing for the the starter gig there before a triceps injury shelved him for the season.
Las Vegas did bring the four-year veteran back and the coaching staff likes Parker’s attitude and experience. He’s played in 54 games with 32 starts — again, on the right side. He’s dabbled at left tackle in practices and preseason, and will likely getting a shot at the right tackle spot again.
The 27-year-old, like Herron, is likely tapped to be a swing tackle candidate.
A mauler of a tackle, this 6-foot-8 and 320-pound undrafted free agent out of Arkansas is a throwback power prospect. Wagner also comes with freakish arm length along with the strength — especially for someone at his height.
His footwork, however, needs major refinement as he’ll face quicker and more agile defenders in the pros. While Wagner did start his collegiate career as a left tackle, he spent the majority of his time in Arkansas on the right side.
Wagner is profiled as a right tackle-only prospect, but his pass protection ability may intrigue for blindside duties.
A five-year veteran who has 20 starts in 37 games under his belt, this 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle is likely to get lost in shuffle at right. He can bounce inside to guard but has spent most of his career focused on the right side of the offensive line.
Murray did play two game for the Oakland Raiders in 2018 but then moved on to the Arizona Cardinals for three season. He was a 12-game starter in 2019 and a seven-game starter the following year. His latest stint was a five-game roll with the Buffalo Bills.
The 30-year-old veteran has experience, however, he’s likely camp fodder.