ALAMEDA — The Oakland Raiders’ decision to move on from former second-round pick Menelik Watson to newcomer Marshall Newhouse has appeared to pay off early this season.
Although Newhouse is in for his toughest test yet on Sunday when the Raiders (2-1) travel to Denver (2-1) and he will be matched up often against one of the game’s most feared pass rushers in Von Miller.
“I love facing the best,” Newhouse said Tuesday. “That’s what this league is all about, just testing your mettle and seeing what you’re made of. I’m looking forward to it.”
Newhouse is also looking forward to getting rid of the bad taste from last week’s 27-10 loss to Washington.
The Raiders offense was almost entirely inept.
They gained just 128 yards, went 0-for-11 on third downs, didn’t get a single first down until the second quarter and allowed Derek Carr to get sacked four times for the first time since the 2015 season finale.
Newhouse was one of the reasons why, allowing two sacks and two additional hurries, according to game-tracking from Pro Football Focus. The rest of the normally stout line also struggled.
“We know we’re better than that and we will be better than that,” Newhouse said. “It was nothing crazy scheme-wise they did. There were no exotic blitzes they did. It was just the one-on-one battles that didn’t go our way.”
Newhouse had fared much better the first two weeks when the Raiders offense was extremely efficient with 71 points and no turnovers. Newhouse didn’t allow a single pressure the first two games, adding needed stability on the right side of Oakland’s line.
He managed to do that after spending nearly the entire training camp and preseason at left tackle while Pro Bowler Donald Penn was holding out.
“He’s the definition of a pro,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “A guy that can bounce around that much and play at the high level that he’s played at, that’s a really impressive thing to do. Especially in a new offense, having to pick up new terminology. The underrated thing sometimes is the communication with the guys next to you. He’s done a nice job of ramping that up each week and getting used to the guys that he has to talk to and be in communication with. We’ve been really, really pleased with what he’s done.”
While the Raiders have Pro Bowlers in Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson, as well as emerging star Gabe Jackson at right guard, the right tackle spot was not as strong last season as Watson, Austin Howard and Vadal Alexander got the bulk of the time there.
The Raiders allowed Watson, their second-round pick in 2013, to leave in free agency to join the Broncos this season and he has struggled so far. His six sacks allowed are the most by any tackle so far this season, according to Pro Football Focus and he has allowed eight additional QB pressures.
After Alexander got a few snaps in the opener, the Raiders have settled on Newhouse in that spot and have been pleased.
“He’s very athletic for how big he is,” Downing said. “You can really see it from some of our stretch plays. When he’s on the backside having to cut people off, the way he can open up and run, he’s really special in his athleticism.”