Not only were the Oakland Raiders able to get Donald Penn to restructure his contract, they’ve also convinced him to make an attempt at playing right tackle this year. The assumption being that the team would like first round pick Kolton Miller to be the starter and left tackle and while the team drafted Brandon Parker to be the right tackle, injuries have limited his time in training camp and he does not look ready.
That being said, Kolton Miller hasn’t really looked ready at left tackle either.
And yet, the Raiders seem almost hell bent on ensuring that Miller is the man protecting Derek Carr’s blind side when the regular season rolls around. Miller has obviously been manning the starting left tackle duties while Donald Penn was rehabbing his foot injury but many, myself included, assumed that once he was back, Penn would reclaim his role as the starting left tackle.
Of course, that is still possible. It’s possible that Penn’s stint at right tackle in practice is nothing more than that, a stint at right tackle in practice. Perhaps the Raiders wanted to check him out there but have not yet made the decision to move him there full time. Or, perhaps they have. And if they have, it really doesn’t seem like the best idea. Not for Miller, not for Penn and not for the Raiders.
Many assume that because Penn is good on the left side that he can easily slide to the right side and be good there as well, but that’s not how things work. Playing on the opposite side of the line is no easy task. Don’t believe me? Ask Donald Penn himself. When the Raiders had a string of injuries at right tackle two years ago, Penn was forced to move to the right side during the Saints game. Here’s what he said about the experience after:
“I’m not going to lie. I was a little worried playing over there. My feet were all jacked up. Try writing with the opposite hand. That’s what switching sides is like. It felt really weird, but I’m just happy we won. Hopefully the injuries aren’t too serious, because I’m not about to play on the right again.”
Sure, it’s possible that Penn could learn to play right tackle but let’s be realistic here. It’s not like Penn is a young and developing tackle who is being asked to learn something new. He’s a veteran on his last legs and soon to be retired and who works incredibly hard just to maintain a high level of play at his natural position. Could he do it? Yeah. Is it highly likely he will be able to move to right tackle and play at a high level this season? I’m not so sure.
And then there’s Miller. I understand that the Raiders took him in the first round and want to see a return for that pick, but they also have to think about the long term, not just this season. If Miller really is the guy who is going to hold down the left side of the line for years to come, it might not be a very good idea to put him into the starting lineup when he isn’t ready. Doing that could help him develop thanks to more reps, or it could destroy his confidence and make it very hard for him to develop if he struggles a lot.