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Ready or not Raiders to start Rookies at both tackle spots versus Chargers

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-South Practice Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Last April the Raiders went tackle with two of their top three picks — Kolton Miler at 14 overall and Brandon Parker in the third round. Now in just the fifth game of the season those two rookies will be starting across from each other.

Top pick Kolton Miller stepped in at tackle in the offseason while Donald Penn recovered from foot surgery. Once Penn returned, right tackle Breno Giacomini had been lost to injury, so the team opted to move Penn to right tackle — a position he had never started a game in his long career — and keep Miller at left tackle.

That was the arrangement for the first four games. Then in the third quarter of Sunday’s against the Browns, Penn was lost to a leg injury and Parker made his debut at right tackle.

It was a sketchy start for Parker who played 57 snaps and gave up two sacks and four pressures. Though, to be fair, one of those sacks Derek Carr held onto the ball too long.

“He did well. He did some good things. He had a couple of plays that he needs to clean up,” Jon Gruden said of Parker’s performance in the game. “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.”

They certainly needed Kolton Miller over the first four games, and now they will rely on both to protect their franchise quarterback. Today it was announced that Penn would be headed to injured reserve and Parker would be getting his first start Sunday when the Raiders head to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.

“I love Donald, so I’ll miss him for however long that is,” said Derek Carr. “With Brandon I think everyone knows about 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 you live with that. He’s tough, he’s very intelligent, so crazy looks and things like that aren’t going to mess with him. Which is good. He’s one of the smartest rookies I’ve ever been around.

Miller had his trial by fire, facing the likes of rookie fifth overall pick Bradley Chubb in Denver, Robert Quinn in Miami, and Myles Garrett against the Browns. The past two weeks in particular, Miller has not fared well, allowing a lot of pressures as well as run stops.

He and Parker will now see the likes of dynamic pass rusher Melvin Ingram in LA. Last season Ingram and Joey Bosa were in a race to get to the quarterback every game and both had double digit sacks.

Lucky for the Raiders, Joey Bosa is not expected to play. The elite pass rusher has been out all season with a bone bruise. Though the Chargers will get defensive tackle Corey Liuget back, so that will help their pass rush. Regardless, it’s two rookies starting at the tackle spots which can be a bit scary.

“You don’t feel like you have two rookies because they’re so talented, but at the end of the day they are and its something that we’ve got to do a good job of helping those guys out,” Carr added.

Here is the updated look at the rest of the Raiders rookies starting with who saw the field Sunday against the Browns.


  • Kolton Miller
  • PJ Hall
  • Brandon Parker
  • Arden Key
  • Nick Nelson
  • Maurice Hurst
  • Johnny Townsend
  • Trent Sieg
  • Matt McCrane



PJ Hall

Returning from the ankle injury he suffered in the season opener, Hall was eased back in, seeing just 19 snaps. He didn’t record a stat, but he held his gap on a goal line play that stopped a run for no gain.

Arden Key

He still hasn’t gotten his first sack of the season, though he has been so close so many times. Even without the elusive sack to his credit, he had an outstanding game, including two clutch run stops — one for a loss at the goal line and one short of the sticks that would have won the game for the Browns. He still leads the team with 5 QB hits.

Nick Nelson

He was active for the first time this season, but didn’t see the field on either defense or special teams.

Maurice Hurst

Speaking of players having their best game, Maurice Hurst. He was a beast against the Browns, with several key plays including a strip sack, a ball batted at the line, and a tackle in which he chased the runner all the way out left to stop him short of the first down. He now has 2.0 of the Raiders’ five sacks on the season.

Johnny Townsend

He continues to be among the worst punters in the NFL this season. He’s still 24th in punt average (43.9), and his net averaged actually dropped a tenth of a yard to 40.2 which is 15th in the league. His 4 punts inside the 20 is 25th in the league. The lack of great field positions has been noticeable for the Raiders.

Trent Sieg

All conditions normal for Sieg. No news is good news for the long snapper.

Matt McCrane

The undrafted rookie kicker was added last week. He was 3 of 5 in the game, missing a 47-yard field goal and a 50-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game. Luckily he was given another chance and converted the short 29-yarder to win it. He also made one from 44 and 29.

Relying on rookies at both tackle spots is not ideal, but here we are. Getting Hall back will help with the depth on the defensive line as he figures to continue to see more snaps. Arden Key and Maurice Hurst have both looked better each passing game and Key is so close to joining Hurst by getting a sack under his belt. The depth at cornerback is what’s keeping Nelson off the field. Townsend better step it up or he won’t be the Raiders’ punter very long.