They jumped out to a surprising 3-0 start, beating the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. However, it was still three impressive wins against three teams all in the playoff race last year.
The Raiders are still 3-1, which is impressive. However, one of their biggest offseason gambles started to bleed to the surface during their first loss.
The Raiders’ offensive line is beginning to struggle
During the Raiders’ loss to LA, the lack of a surefire starting offensive line was highlighted. The Chargers sacked Carr four times, and Las Vegas averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
Carr was only sacked three times against the Ravens and Dolphins, and two times against the Steelers. Carr easily had the best game of his season thus far against Pittsburgh upon receiving a clean pocket for most of the game (382 passing yards, two touchdowns, 126.2 passer rating).
As Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper points out, the Raiders are struggling to score points early, which could also be attributed to an inconsistent offensive line.
The Raiders have scored three offensive points in the first quarter so far this season and stronger work from the offensive line could help the Raiders get off to faster starts. Gruden said they “have to pass protect better early in games” along with getting the run game going, so the line will continue to be a focus of attention in Las Vegas.Josh Alper, Pro Football Talk
The Raiders took a gamble with their O-Line this summer
Dating back to this year’s offseason, the Raiders’ approach to their offensive line has been one of the oddest NFL storylines to follow. Las Vegas has had a strong offensive line for quite some time now. However, they decided to completely gut the unit during the offseason for reasons unknown.
The Raiders traded Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals, starting right guard Gabe Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks, and right tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots.
It was a complete and utter overhaul at the position, followed by few corresponding moves. The Raiders did draft Alabama OT/OG Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, one rookie can’t fill the void left by three starting-caliber veterans.
The Raiders’ offensive line overhaul was a major gamble that caused many to question the team’s front office. The loss against LA shows that the worsened O-Line may be starting to catch up to them.
Head coach Jon Gruden isn’t worried (yet)
Despite the ugly performance against the Chargers, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden isn’t hitting the panic button yet.
“We like our linemen. We really do,” said Gruden. “We did have some pretty good outings. We are not going to hit the panic button. We got to keep coaching. We got to keep developing these guys, and sometimes, the medicine is what we all need. We all need a taste of that medicine even though we don’t like the taste.”
The Raiders are without their projected starting guards for what it’s worth — it makes sense not freaking out just yet. However, another couple of high-sack games could see changes made across the team’s line. Keeping Carr upright is priority number one in the grand scheme of things.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.