Alex Leatherwood woke up last Saturday morning with the realization that he was going to be playing in his first-ever NFL game in just a couple of hours. It was only a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, but he knew how important this game was, not only for the Raiders, but for himself to showcase his talents against the most elite football players in the world.
The Raiders had a tremendous amount of issues along the offensive line in 2020, so they took the drastic steps to trade their highly paid inconsistent right tackle and upgrade the unit by drafting Alabama’s starting left tackle, Alex Leatherwood, with the 17th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Leatherwood, a 4-year starter at Alabama, has played both guard and tackle throughout his career. In 2020, Leatherwood won the Outland Trophy, an award given to the best offensive linemen in college football.
When Leatherwood took the first snap of his NFL career, you could tell why he was given the Outland Trophy. On the game’s first snap, he jumped out of his stance and punched the defensive player in the chest using his 84-inch wingspan.
Leatherwood only played the first quarter, but we were able to see multiple plays where he popped off the screen over that timeframe. He punched and latched onto defensive linemen in one play, and on another, he was able to open a nice lane for the back.
However, saying that doesn’t mean he didn’t have his share of bad plays.
In today’s film breakdown, I dive into why Leatherwood will be an excellent player if he continues to develop and work on a few mental aspects of his game.
In the first clip below, you will see Alex Leatherwood take on 2nd-year defensive end Alton Robinson (4 sacks in 2020) in a true pass set:
Leatherwood sets up in a vertical set, and Robinson rushes upfield. Leatherwood punches with his right hand and latches with his left hand. Robinson successfully swipes Leatherwood’s right hand down.
However, Leatherwood successfully latched on with his left hand, and once a well-coached tackle latches, it’s over for a defensive end. All he has to do now is mirror the defensive end to keep him in front.
The successful latch helped Leatherwood win this rep.
In this second clip, Leatherwood takes on Jarrod Hewitt, an undrafted rookie out of Virginia Tech:
Leatherwood throws an initial left punch to slow his opponent down, followed by a quick right, and finally attempts a latch with his left hand, which looks successful. However, the quarterback throws it as Leatherwood latches.
In the third clip below, Leatherwood takes on veteran defensive end Rasheem Green (7 career sacks)
Leatherwood and Matt Bushman double team Green. The linebacker (#56) takes the outside gap; therefore, Bushman moves off Green and jumps to the linebacker.
Leatherwood does a great job continuing the block and sealing off Green, allowing the running back to slip through the hole for a gain of 8 yards.
The three above clips were some of the good blocks. Let’s jump into a few clips in which Leatherwood gets beat.
In the fourth clip, Leatherwood blocks down and doesn’t see the slot corner blitzing:
Leatherwood has to do a better job keeping his head up and on a swivel. The offensive line is sliding to the right because of the potential of a blitz.
Center Andre James takes on the left defensive tackle, right guard Lester Cotton takes on the left defensive end, and Leatherwood should have picked up the blitzing slot corner.
At the end of clip four, you can see Cotton and James both talking to Leatherwood. This is a rep that can be written off to development.
In the final clip, Leatherwood initially blocks down with Cotton instead of taking the defensive end:
Because he does that, you can see the defensive end gets upfield and almost gets to the quarterback. The offensive line is again sliding to the right, so Leatherwood should have anchored down the right side instead of going to the defensive tackle first.
This rep can also be written off to learning the Tom Cable blocking scheme. With more reps, this will not be an issue.
Overall, Leatherwood played 23 snaps and only made two mistakes. He wasn’t necessarily beat, but rather he made mental mistakes that led to two bad plays. Either way, preseason is meant to be a learning tool, and Leatherwood will get much better as he continues to develop.
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