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Donald Penn Oakland Raiders


Penn at Right Tackle a Work in Progress

Penn at Right Tackle a Work in Progress

Donald Penn’s move from left to right tackle in favor of rookie Kolton Miller was the talk of camp. Now, after one game, one thing is certain – Penn has a ways to go to learn his new position.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie spent two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft on offensive tackle prospects. The Raiders made Kolton Miller the 15th overall pick and selected fellow tackle Brandon Parker in the third round at 65th overall. With left tackle Donald Penn injured, the team put itself in position to have options at one of the weakest roster spots.

Penn was, of course, still rehabbing from foot surgery he had in December for a Lisfranc injury. His recovery kept him off the field for most of the offseason and gave rookie Miller the lion’s share of reps at left tackle. Miller still has room to improve but seems to have secured the starting role.

This means he’s having to completely reverse techniques he has spent 12 years mastering. That isn’t as easy as people tend to think.

That left Penn without a job, unless he was willing to switch to right tackle. To his credit, he is giving it a shot. This means he’s having to completely reverse techniques he has spent 12 years mastering. That isn’t as easy as people tend to think.

“I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s tough,” Penn said after practice Tuesday. “One thing that I’ve been, I’ve been a good athlete. I’m a good athlete, so I think me being athletic can make that transition a little easier and smooth. I don’t know if it’s going to be permanent or not, but we have a good thing going here. I just want to help us win. I’m not playing too much longer. I just want to win. If this is going to help us win, I’m all in for it. I just want to win.”

Doing something as simple as brushing your teeth with the opposite hand will give you an idea of how it is not only a physical change but a mental one. That mental aspect showed up on this play in last night’s game.

Penn probably couldn’t tell you how many line stunts he has picked up in his NFL career, yet this one gets him. The interesting and confusing part is that it was his eye placement that caused him problems. A lineman is taught to look for work when your man leaves you and to start that search on the side to which he left. In this case, it is the EDGE who crosses to the inside.

An EDGE will only give up that outside leverage if he is going to be replaced by either an outside blitz or an interior lineman working a stunt. The stunt is the most common option and the reason most offensive line coaches teach their linemen to start their search in that direction. Instead of switching on the stunt, Penn locks on to the EDGE rusher. The only explanation that makes any sense is Penn is used to locking on a rusher crossing to his left as that would have been his main target when playing left tackle.

It is unrealistic to think Penn will simply start lining up at right tackle and perform as well as he has on the other side and Gruden will game plan accordingly.

Take notice of the chip from running back Doug Martin as it prevented a free rusher possibly hitting quarterback Derek Carr. Head coach Jon Gruden will need to mix six or seven-man protections with tight ends and running backs chipping before releasing into their routes to help out the tackles. As he gets more reps at right tackle, Penn should start to settle in especially from a purely physical standpoint.

It should be noted: as bad as this looks, it is correctable. Penn is still getting used to moving from a right-handed position and that includes his pass sets. His initial kick has good distance but his balance is off because his feet are too far forward. His weight then shifts to his rear which makes this bull rush look so easy. He will correct this simply through practice and repetition. Offensive line coach Tom Cable is up against the clock in getting Penn ready though as the Raiders open the season against the Los Angeles Rams in 16 days. Penn is putting in the effort to be ready for it.

“Donald Penn played pretty well,” Gruden said after Oakland’s 13-6 win over Green Bay. “He had the one snap today where he was power rushed. I’m gonna watch the tape before I make too many specific comments. It’s a work in progress, he’s been out a long time. Doing work on the side with trainers is one thing, coming out in these games and blocking premier rushers is another. He’s got a ways to go to get back to 100-percent, but we do appreciate his hard work.”

Donald Penn Oakland Raiders

It’s unfair to expect Penn to take to right tackle after seeing his first game action of the year.

It is unrealistic to think Penn will simply start lining up at right tackle and perform as well as he has on the other side, and Gruden will game plan accordingly. Between the protections and chipping we already discussed, he will use personnel groupings, moving the pocket, and play action to lessen the amount of time Penn is left on an island.

This play action out of “13” personnel group, moves the launch point as well as ensure both tackles had help with protecting the quarterback. It’s not feasible to only utilize three receiving targets for a full game but this is an example of ways to minimize the exposure both Penn and Miller face as they grow into their new positions. Hopefully, both of them will see extended time in this last preseason game as they could both benefit from the experience.

There will be times that Penn has to win his one-on-one matchups. He is still getting in shape from his surgery, as well as learning to do his job backward. There will be growing pains and it may look rough to begin with, but he has a competent coaching staff that will put him in position to have success.

Penn may not become the Pro-Bowl caliber tackle he was, but if he can be an average starter, he’ll be the best right tackle the Raiders have had in a long time.

What do you think about Penn’s move to right tackle?

Chris Reed is the former Senior NFL analyst for Silver and Black Today.

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