Raiders’ Parker strives to improve
Early in the second quarter of last week’s game against the 49ers, Brandon Parker briefly went from starting right tackle to spectator of the Raiders’ offense.
The rookie committed three penalties on Oakland’s first two drives and missed a pass protection that led to a sack. When the offense took the field for its third series, Parker stayed on the sideline.
His benching lasted only until the start of the second half. Still, it was a new experience for Parker, who said his college coaches at North Carolina A&T “threatened a couple of times to not put me in — but that’s all it took.”
“Naturally frustrating, because I got taken out,” Parker said Friday. “But it did help. I got to watch from another perspective and see the game slow down a little bit. (Being) kind of, I guess, scared that you could be
over there permanently kind of brought me back, ‘All right, you need to perform.’ ”
Head coach Jon Gruden said the Raiders “wanted to let (Parker) take a seat for a couple of series. He’s another kid that’s just getting started . ... He’s got to be more consistent, and he knows that.”
It was not expected, when the Raiders selected Parker with the 65th overall pick in April, that he would be playing at all at this point.
The Raiders drafted Kolton Miller, who has become their starting left tackle, in the first round and had Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn working his way back from foot surgery. When Penn returned in training camp, the Raiders moved him to right tackle and planned to start him alongside Miller. That lasted until a Week 4 groin injury that landed Penn on injured reserve.
Parker replaced Penn in the Raiders’ win over the Browns and has started the past four games with, he acknowledged, varying results. He attributed the early struggles against the 49ers in prime time to being “a little too hyped” — one reason he said his removal was helpful.
“Not only seeing a different perspective, but also my teammates were really encouraging,” Parker said. “A lot of people kept coming to me like, ‘You’re fine. You’re a good player. Just calm down and relax.’ ”
The Raiders’ offensive line, which has allowed 14 of its 25 sacks in its past three games, has dealt with injuries and relative inexperience at both tackle spots this season. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said the Raiders “see a high ceiling” for Parker and that he “still has a ways to go.”
“We have seen some strides,” Olson said. “With an athletic tackle like himself, you’ve got to have a vision of what he’s going to be like in four to five years from now. When we drafted him, that was it — we had a vision. We knew he wasn’t as thick as we’d like him to be right now. But we know there is certainly going to be some growth along the way. He’s getting invaluable experience right now.”
Coming from an FCS program, for which he played exclusively left tackle, Parker had to make a significant jump in competition while adjusting to playing on the right side. Penn, a 13-year veteran also was moving from left to right tackle in training camp, described the switch as having to play “backward.”
“I came in understanding I had to do a little bit of developing naturally, coming from that level, to be their right tackle,” Parker said. “I just didn’t know how soon. Would I say I was ready when I started playing? I’m always ready whenever I have to be ready.”
Parker made his first start in Week 5 against the Chargers, whom he’ll face again Sunday, and allowed four pressures and no sacks in 41 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. It was an encouraging debut and part of a first half of “highs and lows,” Parker said.
“I’ve had a lot of good reps,” Parker said. “Sometimes my punch is good, sometimes I anchor well. But then with the bad, sometimes I don’t punch, sometimes I don’t anchor well. For me, the second half ’s going to be more about consistency.”
Midway through his first NFL season, Parker said, he believes he has shed one designation.
“I think the rookie thing’s out the window,” he said. “Now I’m just trying to be the best pro I can be.”
Right tackle Brandon Parker has started the past four games after Donald Penn was placed on injured reserve.