Brandon Parker

Raiders Shifting Alex Leatherwood To Guard?

The Raiders’ historic offensive pace slowed Monday night, and the team is looking into an interesting adjustment on its new-look offensive line.

First-round pick Alex Leatherwood worked at right guard Thursday, with former third-rounder Brandon Parker lining up at right tackle, The Athletic’s Tashan Reed tweets. Raiders OC Greg Olson deemed this new arrangement an attempt at getting the team’s best five O-linemen on the field together, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore (on Twitter).

While this might not be a long-term adjustment, Leatherwood sliding to guard is certainly notable. This year’s No. 17 overall pick worked as Alabama’s left tackle during his junior and senior seasons. However, Leatherwood’s first foray into first-string Crimson Tide duty came at guard — as a sophomore in 2018. Leatherwood has struggled at right tackle with Las Vegas. The Raiders’ latest surprise first-round pick not only grades as Pro Football Focus’ worst tackle but has produced the lowest pass-blocking grade of any rookie through four games in the site’s 16-season history, PFF’s Austin Gayle tweets.

Parker has not been a regular starter since his 2018 rookie season. He served as a spot starter over the ensuing two seasons, lining up with the Raiders’ first-stringers seven times from 2019-20. The team’s current issues may lead to another opportunity. The Raiders jettisoned their three most experienced O-linemen in March, trading away Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown. That has led to some predictable early issues up front.

Las Vegas is currently down starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good. The former is on short-term IR, while the latter is out for the season. The team has second-year guard John Simpson and Jermaine Eluemunor at guard, though neither is faring particularly well. While Derek Carr has offered up a strong start, the Raiders rank 27th in rushing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Raiders, Leary

Let’s take a quick look at the AFC West, beginning with the division’s three-time reigning champion on the eve of a rather important game.

  • The Chiefs‘ New England visits over the past two seasons have included monster stat lines from their running back corps. While the player responsible for most of that production (Kareem Hunt) is long gone, the Chiefs will also be without starter Damien Williams for Sunday’s Patriots game. Kansas City’s Hunt successor remains out due to a rib injury, set to miss a second straight game. The Chiefs placed Darrel Williams on IR earlier this week and will take a LeSean McCoySpencer WareDarwin Thompson contingent to Foxborough.
  • Set for perhaps a do-or-die game, regarding their playoff aspirations, the Raiders will do so without their largest player. Trent Brown will miss Sunday’s game against the Titans with a pectoral injury. Second-year player Brandon Parker will start at right tackle. A second-round pick, Parker made 12 starts as a rookie but was replaced when the Raiders doled out a record contract for Brown.
  • When Jon Gruden pulled Derek Carr during a blowout loss against the Jets, Mike Glennon took the snaps. Should Carr go down or be benched again this season, that would not be the case. The Raiders promoted DeShone Kizer to their backup spot, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area Notes. Kizer has been Oakland’s QB3 this season, inactive each game. He will suit up as a Raider for the first time, displacing Glennon in that role. The Raiders claimed Kizer, the Browns’ primary 2017 starter and a Packers backup last season, shortly after roster cutdown day.
  • Ronald Leary‘s 12 games this season represent his most with the Broncos, but Denver will have a new right guard Sunday. A concussion will sideline Leary and move Austin Schlottman into the starting lineup, per Mike Klis of 9News. A UDFA out of TCU, Schlottman spent last season on Denver’s practice squad and has played 10 NFL snaps. Leary will exit Week 14 having missed 16 games during his three-year Broncos tenure and looms as a cap-casualty candidate next year. The Broncos can save nearly $9MM by cutting the soon-to-be 31-year-old blocker, who has one season remaining on his contract.

Raiders To Place Donald Penn On IR

Donald Penn suffered a groin injury in the Raiders’ overtime win over the Browns and will head to IR as a result, Ian Rapoport and MJ Acosta of report (on Twitter).

The team does not view this as a season-ending malady, Rapoport adds, and Jon Gruden confirmed as such. Penn would be able to return in eight weeks.

The Raiders are turning to another team’s practice squad to replace Penn on the roster. They’re signing tackle Ian Silberman off the Titans’ practice squad, Paul Gutierrez of reports. Silberman went to the past two Raiders training camps and started at right tackle during part of the preseason. He made the team out of camp but was waived before Week 1.

Second-round pick Brandon Parker will start at right tackle on Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur (on Twitter), giving Oakland two rookie tackle starters flanking three proven veterans inside. Parker’s played 57 snaps this season. Penn has logged 188 at his new position, but, at least in the view of Pro Football Focus, the transition from left to right tackle has not gone well. Penn’s graded as the league’s worst full-time tackle, per PFF.

Nevertheless, the Raiders hope he can be an IR-return candidate. Penn’s profile would suggest as much. This has been another interesting year for the veteran blocker. He was the subject of trade rumors coming into the season, and the 35-year-old tackle was moved off the left side — where Kolton Miller now resides — for the first time in his 11-year NFL career. This occurred despite Penn making the past two Pro Bowls.

This injury will represent the most time Penn has missed as an NFLer as well. Prior to last season, when he played 14 games, Penn had suited up for every game of his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Sign Brandon Parker, Nick Nelson

The Raiders inked two of their draft picks on Monday afternoon. Third-round offensive tackle Brandon Parker and fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson are now under contract, meaning that eight of their nine selections have been signed. As shown on PFR’s tracker, third-round defensive end Arden Key is the last unsigned rookie of the bunch. 

Parker, the No. 65 overall pick in last month’s draft, played four seasons at North Carolina AT&T and started all 48 of his games at left tackle. The reigning MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year and FCS All-American First Team selection will compete for time behind starters Donald Penn and fellow rookie Kolton Miller at the tackle spots.

Nelson, the No. 110 overall pick, spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Hawaii before transferring to Wisconsin. With the Badgers, Nelson tallied 35 tackles and tied for third in the country with 21 passes defended. Nelson has 40 passes defensed in three NCAA seasons but, somehow, did not record an interception in that time. That may have been a red mark against him in the draft process, along with his torn meniscus in early April.

The good news is that Nelson is expected to be back to full health this summer, which should allow for him to compete for playing time behind starters Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin. Shareece Wright, Dexter McDonald, Leon Hall, and Daryl Worley are also among those in the CB mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bay Area Notes: Johnson, Hurst, Miller, DBs

It sounds like Jon Gruden and Derrick Johnson hit it off in a one-on-one meeting, which led to the Raiders signing the 14th-year linebacker earlier on Friday. Johnson’s deal is a one-year agreement, Terez Paylor of reports, adding that it’s worth up to $3MM. Gruden looks to have been a Johnson fan for a while during his years as ESPN’s Monday Night Football analyst, and that intel may have played a key role in the 35-year-old off-ball ‘backer landing with Oakland.

I’m one of Gruden’s favorite players — he’s always had a soft spot for me,” Johnson said, via Paylor. “He’s always said that over the years. I’m not playing for a rebuilding-type year. I sensed an urgency from Coach Gruden that winning is important right now.”

The Chiefs’ all-time leading tackler, Johnson has not played in a 4-3 defense since the 2008 season. Prior to the Chiefs switching to the 3-4 look in 2009, Johnson worked as an outside linebacker with Kansas City during his first four seasons. The Raiders signed Tahir Whitehead as well. He, Bruce Irvin and Johnson could be the Raiders’ three linebacker starters, despite Johnson telling Paylor he’s not quite the same player he was since the second of his severe Achilles injuries shut him down late in the 2016 season.

Here’s the latest out of the Bay Area:

  • Gruden, though, did not rule out a NaVorro Bowman reunion (Twitter link via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area). Bowman is nearly six years younger than Johnson but also carries injury baggage. However, Bowman graded as Oakland’s best linebacker by a wide margin last season. The Raiders have maintained they’re still interested in Bowman throughout the offseason, but they’ve now added four linebackers — with Emmanuel Lamur and Kyle Wilber coming to California as well — since Bowman became a free agent.
  • The Raiders began their rookie minicamp with Kolton Miller working at left tackle, where he’ll likely be Donald Penn‘s backup. Gruden confirmed the team’s first-round pick will start his career there, per’s James Palmer (on Twitter), despite the team being in need of an immediate right tackle starter. Third-round pick Brandon Parker will work at that position.
  • Maurice Hurst Jr.‘s been cleared for workouts and participated in the first day of the Raiders’ minicamp. Gruden said (via Bair, on Twitter) the team doesn’t have any reservations about the Michigan product, whose heart issues played a major role in him sliding into the fifth round. Gruden believes the Raiders landed the top two interior pass rushers in the draft in Hurst and second-round pick P.J. Hall, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (via Twitter).
  • The 49ers plan to move third-round pick Tarvarius Moore from cornerback to safety, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes. The Southern Mississippi alum ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, and his 6-foot-2 frame also makes John Lynch believe he could stick at corner. Interestingly, 5-9 safety D.J. Reed — an outside corner at Kansas State — will compete with K’Waun Williams for the slot job, per Barrows, but also practice at safety. San Francisco’s brass is clearly unafraid to shuttle its defensive backs around, having Jimmie Ward ready to potentially switch positions for the fourth straight offseason.
  • Would-be third-year DB Dexter McCoil broke a bone in his foot training independently, leading the 49ers to waive him with an NFI distinction, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. A 16-game Charger participant in 2016 and having played eight games with the 49ers last season, McCoil is facing a four- to six-week recovery period, per Maiocco.

Raiders Acquire Ravens’ No. 65 Pick

The Raiders are moving to the top of the third round and will use multiple picks to make that jump, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets.

Oakland acquired the No. 65 choice from the Ravens and will send Nos. 75, 152 and 212 to Baltimore. The Raiders used the pick to draft another offensive lineman, North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker.

The 6-foot-7 Parker will follow the 6-9 Kolton Miller to the Bay Area as offensive line reinforcements. The Silver and Black are in need of right tackle help and have Donald Penn entering his age-35 season on the left edge. Each of Oakland’s three 2018 picks so far have come on the lines, with second-round defensive lineman P.J. Hall joining the blockers as the newest Raiders.