Right Tackle Brandon Parker had a stellar college career and is poised to be a good pro. But is he there yet as he prepares for his first start? We take a look.
There was an audible moan from Raider Nation when the team selected offensive tackle Brandon Parker in the third round (65th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft. Considering the Raiders had taken Kolton Miller, another tackle, 15th overall in the first round, that decision suddenly looks like a stroke of genius after the Raiders placed Pro-bowl tackle Donald Penn on IR Wednesday.
Parker entered Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter after Penn left with a foot injury. He had been sidelined with an ankle injury of his own and his return couldn’t have been timed any better. The on-field results were not perfect and there is much room for the rookie lineman to improve. He does look as though he will be more than serviceable to begin his career. While there were some typical rookie issues, Parker seemed to earn the trust of his coaches.
“(I)Feel pretty good,” Head coach Jon Gruden said of Parker on Wednesday. “We are confident, he’s back, he’s healthy, and he played pretty good when he got in there and played. This will be a great opportunity for him.”
Starting by looking at the half-sack Parker was saddled with, it shows some technique as well as game plan issues. Browns defensive end Genard Avery starts his pass rush from the 9-technique which gives him the advantage to build speed going into contact. Oakland gives Parker some help by having tight end Jared Cook chip but utilizing running back Jalen Richard would have been more effective. In an attempt to mirror Avery’s depth, Parker oversteps his drop.
Parker ends up allowing Avery to gain inside leverage and receives a club to his inside shoulder allowing Avery to clear his block and get to the quarterback. Even with this breakdown in technique, this would be graded more as a coverage sack. Carr is reading the two crossing routes to the middle of the field which are both covered. He is then sacked and fortunately ruled down before the Browns recovered the apparent fumble.
As has been the case with the Raiders new coaching staff, it doesn’t take them long to correct any deficiencies in their game plan. Again the Browns lined Avery up at the 9-technique and as before, the Raiders chipped him with their tight end. This time, however, Richard gave outside help which freed Parker up to anchor for the bull rush.
Fans have voiced concern over a perceived lack of adjustments but the film is full of them. This is just a team learning a new system with some young players in key roles. Expect the offense to give help to both of their tackles this week as they continue to grow into their positions. Parker looked solid in his game action which was noticed by his quarterback, which may be the most important person he needs to prove himself to.
“With Brandon,” Carr said of Parker on Wednesday. “I think everyone knows how we feel about him around here, he’s really good. I’m sure he had a couple plays, as a rookie, that he’d want back. But that’s, you live with that. He’s tough. He’s very intelligent so crazy looks and things like that are not going to mess with him, which is good. He’s one of the smartest guys, smartest rookies I’ve ever been around.”
That intelligence and reaction time shows in his short film from Sunday. The Browns came with the infamous “Cross Dog” blitz that crosses the interior linebackers through the “A” gap. The cross action confuses Richard and the linebacker spears Carr. On the outside, the defense also attempted to confuse Parker but was unsuccessful.
The Browns brought a linebacker down to the 9-technique but had him drop into coverage. As he dropped the 3-technique attempted to cross Parker before he had a chance to react. He picked up the twist perfectly. Having an All-pro level center like Rodney Hudson making protection calls will also help Parker in making the correct pickups. He is in a great environment to grow into a quality starting right tackle.
That growth will need to involve his bend as it does with many rookies. Parker did tend to bend at the waist and reach which lead to balance issues. Bending at the knee isn’t a normal movement and it must become a trained muscle memory. Like anything involved with technique, this should be taken care of through repetition. Once Penn is healthy enough to rejoin the team, even if he doesn’t come off of IR, his tips of the trade will also prove valuable to Parker. If he continues to work at his craft, there is nothing physically that will prevent him from living up to the potential his coaches and teammates see in him
While Parker’s game action Sunday was not perfect, there is plenty of room to improve. Cleveland did a good job attempting to put pressure on the Raiders rookie tackles. They held up well to the onslaught and will face another tough challenge this week against the LA Chargers. They have a slight reprieve in that that Joey Bosa has been ruled out for the game. The growth and performance of Parker and his counterpart, Miller, will have an obvious impact on not only this game but the overall season. Thus far, early returns seem to indicate the Raiders have their tackles of the future.