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Raiders’ offensive line rotation to continue against Cardinals

Updated September 13, 2022 - 5:55 pm

There will probably come a time this season when the Raiders settle on a permanent starting five along their offensive line. But that day doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon. At least not by the time the Raiders host the Cardinals on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

Raiders coach Josh McDaniels hinted and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi essentially confirmed on Tuesday that for now the Raiders will stick with the offensive line rotation they utilized throughout training camp, the preseason and Week 1 against the Chargers.

“I think they’ve earned the right to play again this week,” Lombardi said of the players involved.

That doesn’t mean the Raiders are completely done addressing the offensive line. They have had various players in for workouts and physicals, even after setting their 53-man roster. That included visiting with veteran offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele on Tuesday. Osemele was with the Raiders from 2016 to 2018 but has not played in the NFL since injuring both knees in a 2020 game against the Raiders as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders used a seven-man rotation against the Chargers, with four players sharing time at right tackle and right guard. Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie Dylan Parham started at right tackle and right guard, with Thayer Munford and Lester Cotton subbing in for Eluemunor and Parham, respectively.

And while the struggles of the offensive line contributed to the five sacks Derek Carr absorbed on Sunday, the issues had more to do with the left side than the right. It also didn’t help that running backs Josh Jacobs and Ameer Abdullah struggled in blitz pick-up and that tight end Darren Waller whiffed on a block of Joey Bosa that led to a sack of Davante Adams on a reverse play that was designed for Adams to throw the ball.

“I’ve always believed that protection is a team thing. It’s not just on the offensive line,” McDaniels said. “It’s a function of everybody doing their job, it really is. It won’t ever be any different. They got to do their job, but so do the skill guys. So do the backs in blitz pickups. So do the tight ends.”

In fact, Parham and Eluemunor were the Raiders’ highest-graded linemen against the Chargers, according to Pro Football Focus.

Munford and Cotton did not grade out as highly, although in Munford’s defense his appearance against the Chargers was his first since Week 2 of the preseason. The rookie from Ohio State was injured the following week at practice and was not fully cleared to return to practice until Aug. 31.

By the sound of things, Munford will remain in the mix as the Raiders continue to sort things out on the right side.

“We’re playing the guys that deserve to play,” McDaniels said. “There are seven guys that played (Sunday) because they earned the opportunity with their performance throughout the course of the preseason and in training camp.”

McDaniels also indicated that will be the plan until further notice.

“If something were to break and say, ‘Hey, these five are clearly different from the other five,’ then we could go in that direction,” McDaniels said.

Granted, the status of starting center Andre James for Sunday could play a role in how McDaniels ultimately handles the snap distribution against the Cardinals. James is in concussion protocol after a head-to-head collision with Bosa as both players dove for a loose ball. If he isn’t cleared to play, that could affect the right-side rotation.

Parham cross-trained at center throughout camp and took snaps at the position in the preseason. If James can’t go on Sunday, Parham could be a candidate to replace him.

Another option is promoting a player from the practice squad to replace James, which could mean Hroniss Grasu getting the call-up. The Raiders also added center Billy Price, a 2018 first-round pick of the Bengals, to the practice squad on Tuesday. Price made 15 starts with the Giants last year.

Against the Chargers, the play of the right side of the offensive line was more than acceptable, especially from the starters. Eluemunor gave up one sack in 40 pass-block snaps, while Parham didn’t allow a pressure in 35 pass-block snaps.

Meanwhile, the struggles from the left side, specifically tackle Kolton Miller, could be considered an anomaly.

According to PFF, Miller’s performance was his worst since Week 14 against the Chiefs last year. The point being, it would be a surprise if Miller doesn’t bounce back from his shaky performance.

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

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