Expectations are an interesting thing in the NFL. Especially for “afterthought” signings along the offensive line. Veteran Greg Van Roten and young enigma Netane Muti certainly fit that bill for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Las Vegas inked the 33-year-old Van Roten to a deal mid May while the team brought back the 24-year-old Muti just five days before the start of free agency on March 15. Expectations on both offensive lineman weren’t high and one could merely see both as camp depth or fodder.
As the Raiders approach the tail end of training camp and are prepping for the final preseason game — against the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday — Van Roten and Muti blew up those initial expectations. Neither were seen as roster locks for the regular season 53-man squad initially, but things have turned. Not only is the duo heating up the competition at guard, they’ve made a firm stake they merit consideration for the final roster.
Van Roten seemingly has vice grip stranglehold of the starting right guard spot supplanting 2022 starter Alex Bars. Muti, meanwhile, played significant snaps at left guard in place of starter Dylan Parham (who is out with an injury suffered in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers and hasn’t practiced since).
Despite being a late May addition, Van Roten came into the Raiders system and assimilated seamlessly. The Penn product is a steady presence and appears slated to be the starter on the right side. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder is effective in both pass protection and run blocking, something that isn’t surprising for an eight-year veteran with 54 career starts and 93 games under his belt.
“I mean, I’ve played a lot of football and I have a lot of experience and I kind of know how it goes. So, the more you can do, the more opportunity you’re going to have,” Van Roten noted. “And I just try to make the most of the opportunities that I get when I am in there. So, who knows how it all shakes out, but I’m just trying to do my best when my best is needed.”
Meanwhile Muti, who had opened eyes against the 49ers but didn’t have a strong performance the following week against the Rams), appears set to be the first guard of the bench with Parham as the starter on the left side (health permitting). At 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds, Muti displays uncanny strength and is an absolute mauler run blocking. Muti is light on NFL experience — just four career starts and 20 career games since being a 2020 sixth-round pick by the Denver Broncos. But the Tongan has impressive country strength and willingness to learn. And despite a down game against the Rams, any live snaps will only help Muti.
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels isn’t surprised Van Roten fit right in and is rooting himself as an offensive line mainstay despite being somewhat of a late addition three months after the free agency mad dash opened in mid-March.
As for Muti, Las Vegas’ coach noted Muti’s snaps are a product of him competing and making progress.
“Greg’s a tough guy, very smart. Kind of fits the mold of what we like up front. Aggressive, on the same page, good communicator, can play multiple positions,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said about Van Roten. “And just —he’s a fighter inside, which is what you want. So, really good addition.”
“Mut is a guy that we got last year during the course of the year and has really just worked hard to give himself an opportunity to compete in there,” McDaniels said of Muti. “A physical player, still learning all the ins and outs, but making progress.”