Two days into camp now with a major piece of the Raiders offensive line missing. There’s no telling when Donald Penn’s holdout will end. Or even HOW it will end. The Pro Bowl left tackle isn’t happy with his contract and is sitting out camp until the Raiders remedy the situation.
In the meantime, the Raiders shifted Marshall Newhouse — the man they had signed this offseason to play right tackle — to the left side to fill in.
This isn’t how anyone wanted this to go. Right tackle was the weak spot for the Raiders, who won’t have either of their starters for the last few years returning this season. Injury prone former round two pick Menelik Watson was allowed to leave as a free agent and three-year insurance plan Austin Howard was released the day before camp.
Newhouse was supposed to solidify the line which had three Pro Bowlers, a Pro Bowl alternate, and an All Pro already in place. Now both tackle spots are in chaos. Though, as you might expect, Newhouse doesn’t think so. Or if he does, he’s not letting on.
“No, I’ve done it a bunch in my career. It’s not a big deal,” said Newhouse.
“I have a lot of snaps. I’ve had reps, not as many in the game, but I’ve had a lot of reps at left tackle. It’s just something that I played in college and flipping, which is normally not an easy thing to do, has been more comfortable because I’ve done it so much.”
Even the most versatile linemen know that being thrust into a new role can be jarring. Former Raiders lineman Khalif Barnes jumped all over the line. He was usually pretty serviceable, but when he had to switch week to week or even during a game, his play would suffer. As a result he would unfairly catch hell from fans when he made mistakes.
The difference in each position on the line, and especially right and left tackle should not be underrated. It’s an entirely different approach.
“You’re basically flipping on the plays,” Newhouse continued. “You have a different feel for the quarterback – one side is blindside, one side is not. So, both sides are important. There are good rushers on both sides, but there are some physical differences and a little bit of mental too.”
Derek Carr has thrived at quarterback the past couple season with superior protection from most of his line. He was sacked just 18 times last season, with only 8 of those given up by the offensive line, and 7 of those coming from the right tackle.
For that reason, the best case scenario isn’t just for Penn to return, but for him to return soon. Every day he holds out, Newhouse misses out on valuable camp reps in preparation for the season. His experience is helpful, but it would be naive to think it won’t affect his play as well as that of the entire line.
Worst case scenario is obviously Penn not returning at all and Newhouse starting at left tackle. Next to worst would be Penn missing all of camp and then returning causing Newhouse to get no camp reps at right tackle.
I think Khalil Mack said it best:
“Those are very important reps when you go against a guy like that, one of the best in the game,” said Mack. “Obviously, he wants to be placed in that situation where he’s getting what he wants in that regard . . . Ain’t nothing but love for D.P., but he needs to hurry back and get that done.”