HENDERSON, Nev. -- Tom Cable has a process. It's one the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line coach picked up years ago from his mentor, Alex Gibbs. And it's one Cable will have to lean on heavily this season.
Especially after the Raiders reshuffled their offensive line by trading away three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals, right guard Gabe Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks and right tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots.
Hey, at least they rewarded left tackle Kolton Miller, the team's first-round pick in 2018, with a three-year extension worth up to $68.7 million and re-signed veteran left guard Richie Incognito -- who will be 38 years old July 5 and is coming off an Achilles injury that limited him to two games in 2020 -- after initially cutting him, right?
"First, you've got to figure out your first five [linemen]," Cable said in the middle of last season, echoing Gibbs' mantra. "And then you've got to figure out your sixth man, then your seventh man, then your eighth man. And when you pick out six, seven and eight after you know who your first five are, all three of those guys have got to be able to play two spots. And that's really what are formula is."
OK, let's play, then. At least, when it comes to projecting a starting offensive line in mid-April, mind you.
Let's use a Sharpie to write in Miller at left tackle and Incognito at left guard. And while the Raiders brought in four-year veteran center Nick Martin in free agency, Andre James -- who joined the Raiders as an undrafted rookie out of UCLA in 2019 -- has the upper hand. Yes, even though he has started one game at center for the Raiders in place of an injured Hudson in 2019, due to Hudson being such a mainstay for the franchise since 2015.
Consider: Hudson played 100% of the Raiders' offensive snaps since 2016, save for one game he missed in 2019.
Right guard? You have to think re-signed Denzelle Good, who played right tackle and left guard last season but spelled Jackson at right guard in 2019, is already penciled in there.
Unless ... the Raiders do something crazy, like move Good out to right tackle and move John Simpson, a fourth-round draft pick last year who started two games as a rookie last year, in at right guard.
Of course, the Raiders still have Brandon Parker, who started two games at right tackle in 2020 but left enough to be desired that Las Vegas has been linked to using its first-round pick (No. 17 overall) on a right tackle.
Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins, anyone? What about Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw? Perhaps USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker? Surely, the likes of Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater will be gone by the time Las Vegas is on the clock.
Still, Parker started 12 games at right tackle in 2018 after being drafted in the third round. And with Miller on the left side, it marked the first time the Raiders started rookies at both offensive tackle positions since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The Raiders also became just the sixth team to start a pair of rookies at tackle since 2007.
So why would the Raiders blow up a unit it had invested so much time and money on the past few years?
For starters, that projected line of LT Miller, LG Incognito, C Hudson, RG Jackson and RT Brown played all of three snaps together last season. Three!
And with no playoff appearances with that unit, there was no real return on the investment. Plus, the trades of Hudson, Jackson and Brown saved Las Vegas $32.6 million in salary while getting a haul of mid-to-late-round draft picks.
So now, Cable goes to work. Again. And that's just fine with Miller.
"Obviously, there's going to be competition, but I think we have a good group ahead of us," Miller said after his extension was announced. "We're just going to work hard together. We're going to continue to invest that trust. I trust Tom Cable. I trust me, Richie, Denzelle and Andre and whoever we choose to ... bring in, we'll be OK. We'll continue to work hard and get the job done."
And as quarterback Derek Carr noted last year, there is a respect factor at play between the offensive line and its position coach.
"That really jumps out at me," Carr said. "When [Cable] speaks, they listen. And it's, 'Yes sir, I got it. No problem.' There is no debate ... and it's not really like a dictatorship, it's just like a mutual respect that they have and, obviously, we see the fruits of it and what's been able to happen.
"The command that he has, the respect level that he has with his group. It's special."
It will also be a major work in progress.
"We're continuing to build," Miller said. "I thought we made great strides last year, but obviously times changed. Like this year things got moved around a lot and that happens with teams, right?
"But I feel really confident in our group and ... going forward I have the upmost confidence in the staff. I'm going along for the ride and I'm for it. Yeah, I feel good about it."
It's part of Cable's process.