When the Oakland Raiders play the Los Angeles Rams, two star players both named Donald will be skipping it because of their highly publicized holdouts.
An interesting underlying story in what might be considered a meaningless preseason game to most between the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams has to be the two star players that will not be playing in it. Raiders’ Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn and Rams’ All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald are holding out for new contracts.
In the tale of two Donalds, both skipped their respective teams’ entire training camp. Neither great player has gotten anywhere close to putting pen to paper this offseason, both reluctant to play anymore under their current deals. So which holdout is worse for their team? Does it matter?
Penn’s holdout for the Raiders might be the one with more ancillary effects. He views himself as a top-10 offensive tackle in football and wants to be paid like one. Penn is coming off his best season, one where he made the Pro Bowl and allowed just one sack. The 2016 Raiders offensive line was top-tier and he was a huge reason for that.
In all honesty, Penn is not the player that Donald is. The Rams’ defensive tackle is on par with the Raiders’ outside linebacker Khalil Mack as a top-five player in football, period. However, Penn’s absence from camp has presented more problems than answers on the Raiders offensive line.
Sure, the Raiders are incredible in the offensive interior with Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele, but could see their tackle spots resolve into being turnstiles on the outside. The idea was to put newcomer Marshall Newhouse at starting right tackle.
That has not been the case, as Newhouse has had to get almost all of his reps at left tackle in Penn’s absence. Newhouse might be a better than average right tackle, but definitely not at left tackle, making the Raiders offensive line worse.
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While second-year player Vadal Alexander has made strides in camp, he is a guard by trade coming out of LSU. He has been asked to step up to play right tackle with Newhouse at left tackle. Alexander is getting better at right tackle, but he’s not ready to be an NFL starter on the outside just yet.
Donald’s hold out in Los Angeles might be more justifiable given his level of dominance in the league. His claim to Ndamukong Suh money is more legitimate than the type of money Penn is commanding. The Rams’ defense will be weaker without Donald on the gridiron, but won’t have as many potentially devastating consequences as Penn not being out there for the Silver and Black.
Keep in mind that the Raiders have a promising franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, a guy that is already coming off a season-ending injury. Sure, it came on the one play that Penn allowed for a sack, but Penn was rock solid all of last year.
With Penn not being around the Raiders organization for the entire month of August up to this point, it is starting to become a bad look for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. Being this far away on money with his Pro Bowl left tackle only jeopardizes the Raiders’ chances of making the playoffs or orchestrating a deep run in January.
The biggest difference in the tale of the two Donalds holding out is one plays for a should-be playoff team and the other for a team that hasn’t sniffed January football since 2004. It’s starting to sink in that Penn may have no intention of ending his holdout in the coming weeks. If he’s not back Week 1 versus the Tennessee Titans, it would be a sour note to start the regular season on.