Learning lessons aren’t always pretty. For all the good the Las Vegas Raiders did in their preseason-opening 27-11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game, there were spurts of ugliness.
That’s not a disheartening or shocking thing, mind you. It’s all part of ebb and flow of things for the Silver & Black as they embark on the new Josh McDaniels era. New head coach, new general manager, new coaching staff means growing pains come with that. Such as pass protection.
A byproduct of the multiplicity McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler have preached since the onset of their tenure, the Raiders lined up Brandon Parker — a right tackle by trade — at left to protect the quarterback’s blindside. The results were iffy at best.
“A lot of guys have to play multiple positions. That can’t be part of the problem,” McDaniels began in his day after the Jaguars game media session. “A lot of guys played multiple spots last night because you have to have depth at the game somehow, some way. There were a few things that Brandon can do better.”
Parker was pushed back and ran around by Jacksonville rookie Travon Walker (the 2022 NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick, mind you) in the initial Raiders’ offensive series and it definitely looked like an offensive linemen manning a spot that he normally does not. But McDaniels isn’t one to single out a player and leave them on an island — even if that’s what the team appeared to do against the Jaguars. There were other moving parts of pass protection — which misfired — during sequences where Parker stood out.
“There were also some things we were trying to do offensively but we didn’t execute very well, that didn’t have anything to do with Brandon. A lot of things go into pass protection,” McDaniels said. “As I’ve said before, if you want to be good and pass protection, you have to do a lot of things right. It’s not just one man’s responsibility, the timing of the play, the quarterbacks, where he’s stepping up in the pocket, if the back is supposed to be helping or chipping on the edge. There’s a lot of things that are coordinated, going into a good pass protection unit. Certainly, after our first game, we’re not where we want to or need to be and that’s why we’ll work hard today on the film to correct that.”
The ugliness will show up on film and provided McDaniels, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, and the rest of the Raiders coaching staff areas of opportunity. Instances of discombobulation in a preseason opener are expected and warranted. It’s when the issues become habitual as Vegas progresses towards the regular season that it’ll become a not only an annoyance, but an issue with coaching and player development.
The Raiders ability to run the ball was an area McDaniels was pleased. The offensive line won the battle at the line of scrimmage several times when the offense ran the ball and each tailback that earned a carry got the necessary contact — to break tackles and sustain live opponent hits — that the Raiders can’t simulate in Henderson. Playing against another defense also provided the Las Vegas the opportunity to combat things they haven’t seen in all their snaps in OTAs and training camp thus far.
“There are a few techniques that Jacksonville uses that we haven’t quite seen yet,” McDaniels began. “So that’s always going to happen in the preseason when you don’t practice for three days leading up to the opponent, so that was a good thing for us to be able to see if somebody else plays a different technique on the line. And now it creates another type of communication and an adjustment so we’ll be able to coach off of that today, which will be good.
“There are a few things in the protection where we’re just a hair late relative to making an adjustment on some type of a game or stunt that they used.”
Don’t expect the Raiders reliance on multiplicity to end anytime soon. McDaniels stressed the importance of getting players acclimated to other positions at every opportunity. This is to gear the team up for injuries or any other absence (plan for the worst, hope for the best mantra) the Raiders may sustain. Another offensive lineman who saw work at different spots was rookie Dylan Parham. Identified as a versatile prospect who can line up at across the interior positions on the line, he was given the opportunity to play at the guard and pivot spots against Jacksonville.
“For a first game, to play multiple spots like that – I don’t think Dylan was out of position much. I think the calls when he was at center, I think he was doing a decent job of getting us headed in the right direction there,” McDaniels said. “His communication was pretty good. Like most rookies, once you get into games in our league, there’s just a different tempo to the reactions and some of those things.
“He’ll see that, a lot of our young guys will see how quickly they need to be able to adjust and react on the field to certain things, but overall I thought Dylan competed hard, played a lot of different snaps at a lot of different spots and gained some valuable experience that will make us better as we go forward.”