ALAMEDA – The Raiders have high hopes for Brandon Parker. They used a third-round pick thinking the athletic tackle can be a long-term solution on the offensive line.
The North Carolina product wasn’t thinking about the future this spring. Parker was focused on learning a new system, working with new position coach Tom Cable and endearing himself to new teammates.
That last goal isn’t always easy, especially on the offensive line. Rookies are tested and pushed early regardless of position. Offensive linemen want to see you stand up for yourself and protect your own. That is, after all, their primary job description.
Parker did that on the first day of last week’s minicamp, pushed back against defensive lineman Fadol Brown in an exchange that evolved into a post-rep scuffle.
Coaches didn’t love it. It distracted from practice and a two-minute drill. Brown was penalized and ejected from practice for fighting. The offense got some extra yards by penalty and kicking a field goal.
The linemen, however, were pleased to see Parker refusing to back down.
"Brandon stood up for himself,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “That was really cool to see. You always want to see that, you worry about a guy’s toughness. He’s a tough kid. He’s been playing well. He’s really intelligent. Really smart.”
Veterans test newbies. Parker made a good impression there.
“That’s a positive impression you want to leave,” Parker said. “You want to show the veterans that you’re not afraid of anything, and they you’ll go to battle with them like they’ll go to battle with you. It’s more a matter of gaining respect than proving you’re the toughest guy out there.”
Scuffles don’t improve your standing with coaches. Studying hard, executing well and flashing athleticism certainly does, especially before the pads come on. That was Parker’s primary objective during the offseason program.
“I think I presented well,” Parker said. “I do a good job retaining information. I didn’t really have a whole lot of mistakes. The first couple days are a whirlwind and a faster pace, but after I got used to it and got my feet wet and started to show the veterans what I can really do, they kind of warmed up to me. It has been a smooth adjustment ever since.”
Parker has had hiccups along the way, including a mistake early in the offseason program. He expected Cable to come up and correct what went wrong. Somebody different came his way quickly.
“I looked back and Donald Penn was there and was one of the first to address me,” Parker said. “Having his experience and (veteran Breno Giacomini) on the team and around to give us technical pointers is great.”
Parker and first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller received significant work during the offseason program, and were praised for their intelligence and athleticism. There’s plenty of development remaining, but the rookies seem to be off to a good start.
“They’re smart kids. They listen,” center Rodney Hudson said. “They’re learning and working and asking questions, which I think is always important for young guys. To ask questions about where they can do better, and both of those guys do that.”