Thursday, June 13, 2024

Raiders rolling with Thayer Munford at right tackle after looking elsewhere in the draft

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HENDERSON, Nev. — Seemingly from the moment the final whistle blew on their 2023 season, the cry went out from the top of the Al Davis Torch at Allegiant Stadium.

The Las Vegas Raiders need a new right tackle!

And when swing offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, who had manned the position the past two seasons, left for the New York Giants in free agency, the lament only intensified and all attention turned to the draft. So when the Raiders went on the clock at No. 13 and with Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga available, the pick seemed academic.

Except … the Raiders stunned their fanbase by going best-player-available rather than going for need in selecting Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. Because, in their minds, the Raiders did not need a right tackle. Not with Thayer Munford Jr. on the roster.

“I read into them a little bit but also at the same time, they’re not here,” Munford said of the outside observers and critics. “But I don’t really care what they say. I know what I can do, and the team knows what I can do. So they trust in me right now, and I’m not going to let anybody down.”

So how does Munford compartmentalize the noise and use it as fuel, rather than marinate in it?

“I just keep receipts,” Munford said with a Cheshire-cat grin.

“It’s all love outside of this, but I’m going to keep doing me, keep getting better, keep going against Maxx [Crosby], do what I can do.”

Facing a three-time Pro Bowler in Crosby in non-padded OTAs and, beginning Tuesday, mandatory minicamp is one thing. Solidifying his role as the unquestioned starter some three months before the season kicks off is another.

But here the Raiders are, with a projected offensive line that has the 6-feet-6, 315-pound Munford, who last year started five games at right tackle, four at left tackle and one as a jumbo tight end, slotted on the right side.

Even as the seventh-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2022 said last season he was more comfortable at left tackle.

Still, Munford’s position flexibility appeals to Raiders coach Antonio Pierce as a “special” trait.

“[He] works his tail off,” Pierce said. “Came back in great shape, running. 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 versatility that he brings [is great], but more importantly, it’s Year 3, and he understands this is a great opportunity for him to really just say, ‘I’m your guy.’ And I told him, ‘It’s [yours] for the taking.'”

How’s this for a projected starting offensive line for the Raiders, then: LT Kolton Miller, LG Cody Whitehair, C Andre James, RG Dylan Parham and Munford, whose backups through the offseason have been third-round pick Delmar Glaze and undrafted rookie Andrew Coker.

“Playing on both sides, starting on both sides, I think that’s a really cool element that we get to have exposure to,” new Raiders offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said of Munford.

“I think our style of play that we have, and him having an opportunity to learn [right tackle] right away now as we get into this thing, and him getting opportunities at one position, will only benefit him.”

Munford agreed.

“It actually picked up pretty well because it’s the same system that I’m used to back in Ohio State, because we were more like spread back at Ohio State,” he said. “It’s pretty good.”

Last season, Munford played 255 snaps at right tackle, 203 at left tackle, per ESPN Stats & Information, and had an overall 86.2% pass block win rate as a tackle while being charged with giving up six sacks. He had an overall 73.5% run block win rate as a tackle.

His numbers, though, were slightly better on the left side, from pass block win rate (87.3%-85.2%) to sacks allowed (2-4) to run block win rate (76.6%-71.0%).

But among right tackles with at least 200 snaps played, Munford ranked just 32nd in pass block win rate (Minnesota’s Brian O’Neill was first at 95.5%) and 31st in run block win rate (Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson led at 82.2%).

While acknowledging there is work to be done, Munford also mentioned how much more comfortable he feels.

“Night and day difference from my first year, my second year, to now,” Munford said. “Now, I’m like, ‘Alright, I know I can play, I know I can go against one of the best, especially with Maxx and anybody else that we’re going to play this year.’

“And I know what I can do, so all I have to do now is actually meet my potential and actually do it and help everybody else out on the team as well.”

And that would be unforgettable.

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