It was a bit of a surprise when the new Las Vegas Raiders’ regime brought back free-agent tackle Brandon Parker on a one-year deal this offseason.
The new Las Vegas Leadership didn’t focus much on the Raiders’ 2022 free-agent class and Parker hadn’t distinguish himself much after the Raiders traded up to take him with the first pick of the third round in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Yet, as we enter the third week of the team’s training camp, Parker is in the mix to start at right tackle this season. He has looked solid in camp and is battling 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood for the starting job. Unless Leatherwood gets moved to a guard position (time is running out before the start of the season), this battle could last until early September. There have been some indications in training camp the starting gig is Parker’s to lose.
“I’m literally competing every rep I get,” Parker recently said. “[The coaching staff] told us it’s outright competition. We got [Alex] Leatherwood, myself, Jermaine [Eluemunor], Jackson [Barton]. We got a lot of good guys that could do it as well. When they put me there, they put me there, but as for right now, I just do the best I can.”
Parker is aware he hasn’t lived up to expectations after the Raiders aggressively moved up to take him. He has started 32 of 54 career games. He started 13 games last season and had his moments of both solid and poor play.
“It’s just been a gradual progression over the years. As you know, kind of took a lot of lumps my rookie year,” he said. “My second year, I didn’t play a lot. Played when I was needed. Third year, kind of the same thing. Just kind of learning behind the guys who were ahead of me. And then when it was my turn, using what they taught me and trying to just be the best that I can for my team.
“For one, way too many penalties. Way too many false starts last year. I hurt my team in that way. And with the new staff coming in we have a lap every false start we have, which helps to kind of straighten up. A lot of holdings, too many sacks. And a lot of that stuff is just finishing that last little bit, so that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on. Just finishing with better emphasis.”
Despite the shaky past, Parker is relishing his opportunity with the new regime and he will work hard trying to be a leader in his fifth year and trying to play as much as he earns.
“I try to keep us going when we have those dog days in camp,” Parker said. “We feel the 100-plus heat, we all do. So, I kind of try to keep us all positive. A lot of guys look up to me. Somebody has got to be the uplifting guy, so I try to be that even when I’m not having my best day. Even when I might take an ‘L’ here or there, I’m always just trying to through it behind to show that don’t let that play effect the next play. Just trying to be the leader that we need in our room.”