Sunday afternoon the Oakland Raiders were forced to play two rookie tackles, something Head Coach Jon Gruden isn't accustomed to doing.
The last four games, the Raiders first round pick Kolton Miller has started at left tackle – and done a fine job at that – earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 73.1 in pass protection, which ranks second among all Raiders offensive linemen (Rodney Hudson owns a grade of 83.8 the fourth best among all centers). With Miller on the left, veteran tackle Donald Penn has shifted to the right side, but a little more than halfway through Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, Penn left with an injury, thus thrusting Brandon Parker into action.
Parker, a third round selection from NC A&T, was thrilled when his number got called, and in the 57 snaps he played (62 percent) he did a serviceable job of limiting Myles Garrett and the Browns' pass rush. Yesterday's game will require a lot of film analysis, and Parker is looking forward to fixing some of his miscues.
"Went well, wish it could've went better, but I always expect the best out of myself," Parker said Monday. "So just going to watch the film, go back and get better.
"[I was] a step slow on my backside cutoffs, and then the sack at the end was completely my fault," he added. "I should've slid out one more, just a misprotection read."
It was the soon-to-be 23 year old's first time playing snaps at right tackle in a regular season game, and his head coach was pleased with his contribution.
"He did well," Gruden said Monday. "He did some good things. He had a couple of plays that he needs to clean up. When you go in that game, it's an obvious passing situation, obviously. Up-tempo and all the chips are on the table to go in there and play against a team like Cleveland who's blitzing repeatedly. I thought he did some good things. We're pleased with both of our rookie tackles. I know it was a sore topic when we drafted both of them a few months ago with some people, but we need those two guys."
Penn has yet to receive a timetable for his return after suffering an injury Sunday, which means Parker could see extended reps going forward. The veterans along the offensive line have played an important role in grooming Parker and Miller this season, and he attributes a lot of his comfortability on the field yesterday to center Rodney Hudson.
"He's the guru, I mean I see him in here early every day putting in work with the quarterbacks, with us, making sure we know everything," Parker said. "If I have ever have a question in the [meeting room] or on the field he'll answer it."
Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams threw a lot of different blitz packages at the Raiders offensive line, but the unit did a good job of identifying them according to Parker because of Hudson.
"It was, but Rod did a good job of deciphering for us, and I got to give him credit because everything they threw at us he had down pat," the rookie lineman explained. "He knew where to go and told us where to pick it up."
Parker got off to a slow start in 2018 due to lingering injuries that kept him sidelined during training camp, but No. 75 is a full go and ready to contribute in any way he can. As mentioned earlier, Sunday was the first time Parker received any offensive snaps in the regular season, but he has seen playing time on special teams; what a game to get your first snaps, and to be a part of an overtime win like the one the Raiders had against the Browns.
"It was good to come from a winning culture to help start a winning culture, and be a part of a winning culture," he said. "So it's just nice to help keep it going."
Going forward, Parker will continue to gain experience and learn from offensive line coach Tom Cable and the savvy veterans around him. We'll see how the rookie does in his first battle against the Chargers pass rush this week if Penn is unable to go.