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Biggest question: Will the O-Line protect Derek Carr and create holes for RBs?

Breven Honda
biggest question

One of the biggest questions from last season for the Raiders was the defense. With that answer seemed to be fulfilled with Gus Bradley becoming defensive coordinator, the question this season turns to the opposite side of the ball.

The biggest question this year will surround the offensive line. How will the offensive line – with three new starters – be able to protect quarterback Derek Carr and open holes for running backs Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake and Peyton Barber?

In 2020, Jacobs totaled 1,065 yards on 273 carries. Those 273 carries ranked third-most among running backs, only trailing Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry.

However, Jacobs ranked No. 40 among qualified running backs with 3.9 yards per carry last year. He was one spot behind Drake and recorded the lowest yards per carry total among the eight rushers who totaled quadruple digits on the ground. Barber recorded 2.7 yard per carry last season with the Washington Football Team  

A big reason for the low number was the O-Line unable to find holes for Jacobs.

biggest question
Jul 28, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tackle Alex Leatherwood (70) is pictured during a team practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With three new starters at the line – rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood, right guard Denzelle Good and center Andre James – along with left guard Richie Incognito and left tackle Kolton Miller, increasing the number of holes of Jacobs and Drake through good blocking will lead to an increase in yards per rush for both of them.

If the Raiders want their running backs to increase their yards per carry total, then it will have to happen quickly.

The Silver and Black offensive line will have a big test to create gaps against a Baltimore Ravens team on Monday night that allowed less than 70 rushing yards in seven of its 16 regular season games, in addition to both of its playoff games last year.

Furthermore, the Ravens did not allow a team to rush for more than 194 yards.

During those nine games the Ravens allowed less than 100 yards rushing, the Purple and Black went 6-3.

Last week, Sporting News ranked the Raiders 22nd among offensive lines in 2021.

Carr’s protection among biggest questions for O-line

In addition to the O-Line creating holes for the running backs, Carr’s protection will also need to improve.

Carr had a 111.6 passer rating, but 13 touchdown passes and only two interceptions came on passes thrown in under 2.5 seconds, or quick passes. A better O-Line could give Carr more time this season.    

Twenty-six was the number of times the 6-foot-3 quarterback was sacked last year and the amount this season seems to rise with an unproven line, especially on the right side of the O-Line. However, It should not be as high as 51 sacks – the number of times Carr went down with the ball in 2018.   

biggest question
Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Foster Moreau (87) and fullback Alec Ingold (45) speak with quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that benefits the Raiders in this case is having Alec Ingold at fullback. When a fullback is in the scheme, it gives the offense an extra blocker.

Although Ingold, who was named one of seven captains, will not accumulate the same numbers as Jacobs or Drake, he will be one of the last lines of defense for Carr to complete a pass or an extra run blocker for any of the running backs.