Raiders

Von Miller: Raiders own NFL's best O-line, 'from tackle to tackle, they're great'

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AP

Von Miller: Raiders own NFL's best O-line, 'from tackle to tackle, they're great'

ALAMEDA – Von Miller had high praise for the Raiders offensive line. He called it the NFL’s finest front.

He stuck with it even after playing the Dallas Cowboys superb line this season, and having seen tape of the Raiders’ Sunday debacle at Washington, when the Raiders turned in their worst performance in some time.

“When we were getting ready for the Cowboys, everyone was saying that this is the best offensive line that we’re playing against,” Miller said Wednesday in a conference call. “I really felt like the Raiders, they really are put together to be the best offensive line. That’s just my opinion. Up in Dallas, they have a great, arguably the best offensive line, but my opinion, I’ve always thought that the Raiders had the best offensive line. From tackle to tackle, they’re great.”

They weren’t great, or even good, against Washington. The offensive line allowed four sacks against Washington, just the sixth time quarterback Derek Carr has been sacked at least that much. It hasn’t happened since the super line formed, one featuring Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson from left tackle to right guard.

The line was rattled, along with the entire offense, against Washington.

“We did lay an egg on Sunday, and the only way to get the bad taste out of your mouth is to play somebody else,” Penn said. “It’s not like they’re going to roll over, especially in their house. I know they’re tough. I know their mentality.

“We’re ready to get to the next game, and it doesn’t matter who we play. We could be playing ‘The Replacements.’ We’re ready to get another game out there. We want to get going again, because we weren’t the Raiders on Sunday. We need to get back on point.”

Penn emphasized that the Raiders offensive line should look like it did the first two weeks, when Carr had time and running backs had space.

Their wasn’t much of either in Washington. Those things might be hard to come by in Denver, which features the NFL’s No. 4 defense and its best run D. Oh, and Von-freaking-Miller. And All-Pros in the secondary.

Miller is right. It’s the best line around, with the talent and pride required to rebound well.

“I just encourage them and tell, ‘You do what you’ve been doing,’ because I know they’re just going to work their tail off,” Carr said. “I know that they’re going to come in angry today just like they always do. They’re going to come in and fight at practice, just like they always do. If they find any little thing in their game that they didn’t like last week, they’re going to come and try to correct it this week. I don’t ever have to say anything to them. I have a really good offensive line. I don’t have to worry about them.”

The Broncos will, even with supreme talent on the defensive side. Respect has been paid, even as one team’s strength locks horns with another.

“They play with an attitude,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. “They’re trying to hurt people, which you love about your offensive line. In pass protection, they’re really good at that also. They’re so long and so big. With [Donald] Penn, he’s got great feet as a left tackle. It’s a formidable group.”

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

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.”

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

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AP

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

ALAMEDA – Maurice Hurst is familiar with Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme and his role in it. That knowledge didn’t originate from the Raiders offseason program, or sleepless post-draft nights studying the playbook.

Hurst studied it first at the University of Michigan, focusing on one of planet Earth’s best at his position.

“I’ve been watching Geno Atkins since I was in college,” Hurst said Wednesday. “He’s always someone I’ve had my eye on.”

The veteran Cincinnati Bengal is an elite defensive tackle both stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks as a three technique, working a scheme Guenther coordinated the last four seasons. Hurst shares similar size, traits and explosiveness off the ball, making Atkins a proper athletic role model. He's a good one, with 61 sacks and six Pro Bowls to his credit.

Time watching Hurst was extremely well spent. The Raiders drafted Hurst in the fifth round – a health issue torpedoed this first-round talent’s draft stock – and paired him with Guenther, who came to Alameda this offseason to coordinate Jon Gruden’s defense.

The Raiders certainly hope Hurst can be like Geno in time, because a dominant interior pass rusher is vital to Guenther’s scheme.

“(Atkins is) strong and he’s fast,” Hurst said. “Those traits translate well in the NFL. He’s able to be very disruptive and get after the quarterback. The three technique is the penetrator of our defense. You have to have someone like Geno to make the defense go. That’s a major part of Coach Guenther's scheme, and why he brought in me and (second-round defensive tackle) P.J. Hall. We have Mario (Edwards). We have a good group of guys who can do what he expects us to do.”

Hurst has immersed himself in Guenther’s scheme since joining the Silver and Black. The Michigan man prides himself on scheme study and proper application in practice, but his head start may have helped. Having an inside man didn’t hurt. Fellow Wolverines defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow was drafted by Cincinnati last season and watched film with Hurst during the offseason.

“I had a pretty good idea of what the defense was like and what coach was expecting,” Hurst said, “from watching film with Ryan and talking to him on FaceTime.”

Hurst likes Guenther’s scheme, and his possible role playing three technique – lining up off the guard’s outside shoulder – for the Raiders.

“It definitely gets me amped up,” Hurst said. “The Bengals, their best player was their three technique. That’s the focal point of their defense, and that’s what Coach Guenther is used to getting, and what he has got his whole time in the NFL (with Atkins). He drafted Geno, and it says something for him drafting me and P.J. I think he expects a lot from us and expects us to fill that role he had with the Bengals.”

Hurst and Hall join Edwards as interior linemen with pass-rush ability. It’s unfair to heap expectations on a rookie and the Raiders won’t, but there’s optimism Hurst will make an instant impact.

He can’t make one right now – he hasn’t put pads on as a Raider – but believes he made a solid first impression during the now concluded offseason program.

“I handle those situations pretty well,” Hurst said. “I try to keep my knowledge of the game up, and I’m always on top of my plays. I’m making sure I always stay true to myself and stay true to the game by working hard and putting in a lot of effort. That’s what can set you apart, being reliable.”