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Key Raiders training camp match-up: Arden Key vs Donald Penn

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There’s a whole lot riding on the training camp battle between left tackle Donald Penn and rookie edge-rusher Arden Key.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2014, left tackle Donald Penn as been the Raiders’ franchise left tackle. His training camp battles with edge-rusher Khalil Mack helped elevated his game. It was another classic case of iron sharpens iron as Mack had formidable competition to develop into the best edge-rusher in the NFL.

Dealing with Mack prepared Penn for the likes of Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs and Melvin Ingram of the Los Angeles Chargers. So none of those guys were ever able to do too much damage while facing Penn. But now, Penn is 35 years old and coming off a torn Achilles tendon so he has much to prove.

Arden Key showed he had elite pass-rushing skills with 12.0 sacks in his 2016 sophomore season at LSU. At that point, he was projected to be a future top-10 pick.

Some off-the-field problems had him go into 2017 overweight and out of shape so he wasn’t able to find his 2016 form and now added some character red flags. But the Raiders took a chance on him in the third round. So he wants to prove he’s the same guy he was in 2016 and that the Raiders got a steal. This is one of the more interesting battles in training camp as it will answer so many questions.

How well can a 35-year-old Penn come back from Achilles surgery?

If he doesn’t look good, how long does it take to throw Kolton Miller in there at left tackle?

Does Penn even stay on the roster at $10 million-plus a year?

Is Key ready to be the special edge-rusher many think he can be right away?

Will Key be strong and heavy enough to play the run this year?

If he is and Mack shows up for the season, what does mean for Bruce Irvin?

If Mack’s holdout goes into the season, can the Raiders rush the passer with Key and Irvin on the edges?

A good battle between the two could mean we have yet another case of iron sharpens iron. Penn dominating too much could mean he still has it and Key isn’t quite there yet. If Key dominates too much, it could mean he is what the Raiders are looking for to play opposite Mack but Penn is no longer that guy.