For the first time in what feels like forever the Raiders appear have two starting caliber offensive tackles; key word being appear. Gone are the days of the revolving door at right tackle. Marshall Newhouse, Menelik Watson, Austin Howard, etc. They all paved the way for Trent Brown — the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL — to man the right tackle position for the Silver and Black.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock understand the need for competent tackle play on both sides given the talent at edge rusher in the AFC West. Twice a year the Raiders are tasked with playing the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs. The pass rushers on those teams? Pretty dang good.
The Broncos have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the Chargers have Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, and the Chiefs have Frank Clark and Breeland Speaks. There is more than one solid option for each team, exacerbating the importance of having strong tackle play on both the left and right sides of the offensive line.
“Pass rushers now around the league, there’s pass rushers on either side,” Brown said Tuesday at OTA practice. “So you have to have pretty much a good tackle on both sides.”
This isn’t Brown’s first rodeo at right tackle, playing the position in college at Florida and during his first three years in the NFL with the 49ers. During his stay with San Francisco, Brown only allowed 5.5 sacks over 28 starts, which is very impressive.
When asked how natural it is for him to slot back into his old position Brown claims “Naturally, pretty much stepping right back into it. Doing what I was doing.”
The initial switch to left tackle for the Patriots was tough for Brown, but now it’s part of his repertoire.
“Yeah that was more of a transition than it was coming back to right. I definitely had to get my reps in, get my work in. it took some time, but I got comfortable over there,” said Brown. “I think I could play either side comfortably now.”
For a guy that has played both positions at the highest level, this should be the case. Taken in conjunction with some words from offensive coordinator Greg Olson, Brown’s versatility may be called upon this season should left tackle Kolton Miller struggle again.
“It’s just a decision that we’ve made at this point,” said Olson. “It’s about both of them, really. It’s about Kolton and Trent. Certainly, we had a chance to study Trent before when he was in San Francisco. We’ve seen him on both sides. We’ve had a chance to have Kolton, obviously, on the left side, so that’s where we’ve started this Spring and we feel good about that move right now.”
It’s clear Brown is the backup plan at left tackle if Miller doesn’t pan out. Last season Miller allowed 16.0 sacks, while Brown allowed only 3.0 while protecting Tom Brady’s blind side as the Patriots went on their Super Bowl run.
To be fair, Miller was playing through a knee injury most of the season and Brown was playing in one of the best offensive systems the NFL has ever seen. Point remains, per Olson, the feeling is that slotting Brown at right tackle may not be permanent.
On the flip side, if Miller develops into a solid left tackle as the team hoped when they drafted him, the Raiders will have two excellent options at tackle. Regardless of who is making more money, having two solid guys protecting Derek Carr’s flanks for the next few years would be a blessing.
Expectations are high for Brown, as they should be considering his contract, but it does not seem to phase him at all. His versatility got him to where he is now, and will surely continue to be a valuable trait as he embarks on the first of potentially four seasons with the Silver and Black.