Raiders’ Parker strives to im­prove

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTING GREEN - By Matt Kawa­hara

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.”

James Chance / Getty Images

Right tackle Bran­don Parker has started the past four games af­ter the Raiders placed Don­ald Penn on in­jured re­serve.

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