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Raiders’ offensive line rotation puzzling, ineffective

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — In keeping with a training camp and preseason trend, the Raiders used a rotation along the offensive line in which seven players saw action and four line iterations were used Sunday in the season opener against the Chargers.

The mainstays were Kolton Miller at left tackle, John Simpson at left guard and Andre James at center. On the right side, rookie Dylan Parham started at guard and Jermaine Eluemunor at tackle. Eventually, Lester Cotton took over at right guard and Thayer Munford at right tackle. Parham and Eluemunor then returned to the game.

Eluemunor said the coaching staff told the linemen a rotation was a possibility to keep everyone fresh. And while Eluemunor said no one likes coming off the field, the players “have to roll with it.”

How much it helped — or hurt — in a 24-19 loss is hard to gauge. But the five sacks the line allowed — six if you count a reverse to wide receiver Davante Adams that seemed designed to let Adams throw a pass — seems to suggest there wasn’t any benefit.

Either way, it was an unusual regular-season approach at the NFL level, as most teams exclusively play a group of five starters. And while Raiders coach Josh McDaniels rationalized the move as giving seven deserving players an opportunity, it seems to be more of a case of the Raiders simply not being settled upfront.

The offensive line was arguably the Raiders’ biggest concern, to the point that they released 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood during camp. One game into the season, it remains a unit still under construction. And that meant the unusual game plan to rotate players throughout the game.

“There are seven guys that deserve the opportunity,” McDaniels said. “They have earned the opportunity to do it.”

McDaniels said the sack total wasn’t necessarily a reflection on the offensive line, with a few of them more attributable to Derek Carr having to hold onto the ball longer, be it to allow his wide receivers more time to run deeper patterns or the solid coverage by the Chargers’ secondary.

“I thought we did a decent job in many ways of just giving ourselves a chance to get the ball out on time,” McDaniels said. “When we ended up having to hold the ball, that was based on the coverage. I thought they did a good job. They changed up a lot of different things in the secondary, forcing us to hold the ball a little bit on a few things.”

Eluemunor said there were positives to build on, even with the multiple line changes.

“I feel that we’re all familiar with each other, and we learned a lot about each other today,” he said. “We have a lot of positives going into the next game, and obviously there’s more we can do to help the team win.”

Eluemunor and his linemates weren’t making excuses, though.

“You gotta ball out regardless,” he said. “You have to do your job at the highest ability — that’s what is expected out of all of us. That’s what we expect out of each other, too.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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