Switching from left tackle to right tackle is not as easy as one might think. It is more similar to writing left-handed after decades of writing with the right hand. Not an easy task for most of us.
When a player switches sides, his lineup and footwork have to be done in a completely opposite manner.
At the moment, Oakland Raiders tackle Donald Penn, who spent his first 12 seasons at left tackle, is now making a switch to the right side. It’s a switch Penn initially said was “Very backward” and he felt “very awkward and rusty” when he first lined up there a week ago.
But according to his offensive coordinator, there doesn’t seem to be too steep of a learning curve for Penn.
“He’s had a good week,” Greg Olson said. “He really looked very natural from the first day we put him out there. That was extremely encouraging because he hasn’t played that position throughout his career, but he looked very natural there.”
If Raider Nation has a good memory, this isn’t the first time Penn had to line up on the right side. Two seasons ago, against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, Menelik Watson left the game with an injury, then Matt McCants was carted off the field and Austin Howard was inactive due to injury forcing Penn to play on the right side while Kelechi Osemele moved to left tackle.
During the period in which Penn lined up on Oakland’s right side, the Raiders completed a miraculous comeback which included the amazing game-winning two-point conversion with Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree to begin 2016’s amazing regular season run.
The transition to the right side is not the only battle that confronts Penn. He still has to get back in shape and shake the cobwebs since his foot injury.
“I think we still have to get [Penn] in shape,” Olson said. “He’s been working out here after practice. I think our training staff and strength staff has been doing a good job with that. Just getting himself game ready. It’s been a long time since Donald has played a game. It’s been a long time since he’s been able to practice a full practice. This week’s been a lot about conditioning. He’s having to play himself into shape. I think Tom Cable has also done a good job of monitoring that and monitoring his conditioning up to this point. As far as playing the position, again, he looked very comfortable there.”
There’s no indication yet that this alignment will be the alignment into the regular season. There are still two preseason games to help decide that. If so, it’s something Penn says he’s open to and could help solve the issue the Raiders have at right tackle at least for this season.