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Graney: Time is now for Raiders’ 3rd-year pro to win right tackle job

Updated May 23, 2024 - 8:24 am

Thayer Munford needs to grab the starting right tackle job for the Raiders.

Like with two hands and his entire 6-foot-6, 315 pounds behind it.

Like with all the force a man his size can muster.

Now is the time.

This was much of the talk — well, after who’s going to start at quarterback — of the offseason. Which name might slot into the right tackle position. Many believed the Raiders would identify and select the best available tackle in the draft.

They didn’t.

They didn’t take an offensive tackle until the third round in Maryland tackle DJ Glaze. He might have been a reach.

That should tell you a little about what the coaching staff thinks of Munford. They want the third-year player to win the job. They want him to prove he’s worthy and good enough. They want this to be a non-issue.

A versatile player

But wanting something and seeing it develop are two different things. There is no saying that once organized team activities and minicamp conclude, the Raiders won’t also look at tackles still out there.

Which means Munford needs to continue his progression.

“He works his tail off and came back in great shape,” coach Antonio Pierce said. “He’s got a little chip on his shoulder, right? I’m sure he reads the outside news, but he has looked really good.

“The thing about Thayer that’s special is he can play left tackle; he can play right tackle. We even lined him up at tight end at times last year. … He understands this is a great opportunity for him to really just say, ‘I’m your guy.’ And I told him (the job is) his for the taking.”

The left side was Munford’s best spot at Ohio State, but the Raiders have quite a formidable force there with veteran Kolton Miller. Still, when the latter went down with a shoulder injury and missed four games last season, Munford stepped into the role and played well.

He’s back on the right side and, at least for now, a favorite to start when the season kicks off against the Chargers on Sept. 8. And yet Munford isn’t one to take such a thing for granted. The 2022 seventh-round pick has been proving others wrong for some time now.

He says the noise didn’t bother him. That it wasn’t about what others thought. It wasn’t about all those draft experts that were convinced the Raiders needed to take a tackle early.

“I read into it a little, but at the same time they’re not here,” Munford said. “I know what I can do. The team knows what I can do. It trusts me right now.

“I’m going to keep doing me and getting better at what I do.”

Comfort breeds confidence. It allows you to execute your assignments at a higher rate. Munford has said in the past that he finds such security on the left side more than the right, but that could change now. When you’re talented enough to start at both spots and produce, the belief in yourself only strengthens.

Night and day

It’s unknown right now how much Glaze could push Munford. The guy is a rookie who hasn’t tasted even a day of training camp.

But it’s not a spot that will be just handed to Munford.

Last year’s starter at right tackle, Jermaine Eluemunor, signed with the Giants in free agency. There is no better opportunity than this for Munford. No better chance to prove himself. Now is the time.

“It’s a night-and-day difference from my first year to my second year to now,” Munford said. “I know I can play. I know I can go against anyone we’re going to play. All I have to do is meet my potential.”

All he has to do is go grab it.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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