Updated August 24, 2022 - 5:09 pm
With final cuts less than a week away, the Raiders face a major decision on second-year offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood.
The 17th pick overall in last year’s draft has fallen behind in the running at right tackle, and people with knowledge of the Raiders’ thinking suggest all options are on the table on how to proceed with the former Alabama standout.
Those options include moving Leatherwood from tackle back to guard, where he played the bulk of his rookie season, to trading him or cutting him.
While the last two options seem severe for a second-year player drafted as high as Leatherwood, the current Raiders decision-makers have no ties to Leatherwood and have made it clear their decision on the final 53-man roster will be predicated on performance and fit rather than financial obligations, draft status or experience.
Leatherwood was given a fair chance to earn the starting role at right tackle, but he fell behind Brandon Parker, Thayer Munford and Jermaine Eluemunor during camp and played poorly against the Dolphins in the Raiders’ third preseason game last weekend. His inability to take hold of the job, and his obvious struggles, create a murky future for Leatherwood with the Raiders.
The Leatherwood revelation coincided with the Raiders’ first training camp under Josh McDaniels officially coming to an end on Wednesday with the second of two joint practices with the Patriots, McDaniels’ former team.
From this point on, it’s full steam ahead to one of the most anticipated Raiders seasons in decades. It’s only guesswork determining how ready the Raiders are for the regular season, of course.
It can’t be understated that a brand new offense and defense are still being taught. And that undertaking doesn’t cease just because the Raiders crossed the finish line of training camp.
“There’s definitely a process involved there,” McDaniels said. “Guys are working really hard to try to get that.”
Meanwhile, McDaniels and a completely revamped coaching staff continue to assimilate with a new team. And a roster packed with a slew of newcomers is still getting to know one another.
As defensive end Maxx Crosby put it: “There’s definitely some room for improvement. We’ve just got to keep getting better as a group.”
But if the last two days of work are any indication, if the Raiders aren’t quite there yet, they are clearly getting close.
They didn’t dominate the Patriots on Wednesday like they did the day before, but the crispness and efficiency with which they played on both sides of the ball the last two days is a clear signal they are on target to be ready to go by the season opener against the Chargers on September 11th.
If not with a complete grasp of the playbooks McDaniels and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham brought with them to Las Vegas, at least with a firm enough handle on things to operate with the necessary level of efficiency.
“We’re going to have to start where we are,” McDaniels said. “Wherever we are at the beginning of the season, that’s the only place we can start. We can’t start at third base. So if we’re on first, we’re going to start on first base. And we’re going to try to do that as well as we can.”
The to-do list before kicking off at SoFi Stadium in two weeks is making final determinations at right tackle and left and right guard, with Eluemunor planting himself firmly in the discussion for right tackle, rookie Dylan Parham battling John Simpson at left guard and Lester Cotton trying to hold on to his spot at right guard.
It also means a big decision on Leatherwood, whose Raiders future could be in doubt.
Who: Raiders vs New England Patriots
When: 5:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)