The Raiders started the same consecutive offensive line for the first time all season last week. That only lasted so long since Jermaine Eluemunor went down with an injury.
Munford enters the chat
Thayer Munford looked good in his most extended regular season play. He showcased some of his size, strength and movement. Munford is still figuring out his punch timing but his foot work and pad level have improved. He brought some extra push and energy to the right side.
Miller bounces back
Kolton Miller also looked better. The group as a whole only gave up one sack, despite the Texans having some length and speed off the edge. It could have been a long day but the Raiders tackles stepped up, especially once the bigger Munford stepped in.
Interior stays solid
The Raiders need to test Alex Bars too. He’s not the best at getting downfield. He’s giving them more push on their double teams and he’s solid in pass pro but he’s not consistently getting to the second level, neither is he really sealing the right sise. I still don’t know why John Simpson is not playing. He should at least get a series or two to show what he can do on the right side again.
Parham continues to improve. He played with more balance and hands versus the Texans.
Andre James has seen better games. The Texans size, strength and length upfront gave James some issues. Yet, the group also did better in pass pro and blitz pickup.
Regardless, the group helped Josh Jacobs gash the Texans for over 143 yards and three touchdowns. It was an incredible performance partly because the offensive line played with passion and cohesion. They looked noticeably tougher and more insync after the bye. There are still some things they can clean up on the edges, along with blitz pickup. However, the group is playing hard.
Addition by subtraction
The defensive line also made a change by trading Johnathan Hankins to the Cowboys for some late round picks. Hankins was a solid Raider since joining the team in 2018. He was getting better as the season went on. However, he was a healthy scratch versus the Chiefs a few weeks ago.
It was difficult for the Raiders to play Hankins with Andrew Billings playing so well. They tried to play those two together but it’s tough to play that much size and bulk, especially when the Raider already lack pass rush.
The Cowboys get a versatile nose tackle with experience in odd and even fronts. He’s a 30-year-old veteran with a tiny bit of playoff experience. Hankins will eat some space and hold the line for Dallas. They have enough playmakers that Hankins can just focus on what he does great.
More speed upfront
Vegas will take the added draft capital. It also let’s them play more fronts with Bilal Nichols. Clelin Ferrell should also get some more looks at tackle. Both got off the rock last week. Nichols is looking a little bit better but he still gets eaten up on run. Ferrell does well holding his gap but he doesn’t do as well with the strength and timing of the guards. One of them must seize the opportunity.\
I was way too happy to see Ferrell and Jones share a sack last week. Hopefully, next time they can get their own sack respectively. I like seeing Ferrell, Nicols, Crosby and Jones out there as that’s a lot of length and versatility to use in stunts and twists.
The Mad Maxx Shoe continues
Otherwise, the defensive line has been only the Maxx Crosby show. We’ve seen him show up in pass rush but he’s also made plays in the passing lanes and he’s improved his presence in the run as the season went on. He still needs help with the pass rush side.
Big Billings holds it down
Andrew Billings continues to be the only other consistently effective player upfront. Billings is strong and uses his hands to make his presence felt in the run game. He also can push the pocket from time to time.
No disrespect but I honestly don’t see why Kendall Vickers keeps getting reps. He gets killed in the run game. He’ll get off the ball as a pass rusher but he doesn’t bring much more than Nicols or Ferrell.
Neil Farrell has also started getting more reps the past few weeks. Farrell is a big nose who shows up in the run but not much in the pass. His presence is also probably why they were ready to let Hankins go.
Moving forward to New Orleans
Vegas will have a tougher matchup this week.
On the offensive line, the Saints feature some tough interior players including Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz. Peat is questionable but he holds down the left spot. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is also on the injury report but expected to play. Ramczyk and McCoy are among the top ten graded by PFF. Ruiz was a high draft choice and Peat was a a priority free agent for a reason.
New Orlean’s defensive line has seen better days. Their interior is a hodgepodge of adequate to solid veterans. Cam Jordan and Marcus Daveport are still playing well on the edges. They’re among the top half of their position per PFF. Jordan has 4.5 sacks on the year while Davenport has 4.5. Both are great versus the run. They have the size, length and speed to power conversation to make the Raiders have a long day.
Hopefully, the Raiders can limit some explosiveness off the edge by running the ball and controlling the clock again. This is the game where Munford or Eluemunor can prove themselves as a starter. It is also an opportunity for Miller to shoe he can be elite. It’s also an opportunity for the interior offensive line to perfect their double teams and blitz pickup.
Defensively, this group gets Andy Dalton at QB. Dalton is going to manage the clock and get the ball out quick to defenders. Hopefully, the Raiders secondary can tackle and not blow any coverages. New Orleans is down receivers but even their thrid and fourth options can hit on big plays.
Either way, it will be on the dline to play discipline enough to stop Kamara as well as disruptive enough to impact Dalton. Again, that’s easier to do if the team is playing with a lead on the road.
The last thing the dline wants is long drives with Dalton dinking and dunking his way down field. If both the ol/dl can play well and continue to show improvement, this will be the Raiders game to lose.