ALAMEDA — The Raiders asked a lot of David Sharpe in his first career start.
Replace three-time Pro Bowler Donald Penn on Derek Carr’s blind side. On Monday Night Football. Against the team with the NFL’s best record.
Sharpe had two wishes on his Christmas list: play well and win. The rookie fourth-rounder from Florida only accomplished one of those, but there’s solace in his sturdy performance at left tackle despite the Raiders’ loss to Philadelphia. Sharpe didn’t allow a sack and surrendered only one quarterback pressure in 32 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. If anything, Sharpe can use his first substantial game time as a building block moving forward despite the Raiders only having one game left this season.
“I was impressed with David,” Oakland offensive coordinator Todd Downing said Thursday. “That’s a hard assignment. Monday Night Football against that front as your first start. I thought he did some really good things. I was pleased with his effort.”
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Sharpe owned only three career snaps prior to his first start. All of them came against the Giants in Week 13, and they didn’t go so hot. Raiders’ head coach Jack Del Rio could’ve opted for second-year offensive lineman Vadal Alexander at left tackle against the Eagles, given Alexander has vastly more experience than the rookie. Yet Del Rio inserted Sharpe, the 6-foot-6, 357-pounder, and he did more than suffice.
While right tackle Marshall Newhouse got abused by Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long all night – Newhouse surrendered a sack and six quarterback pressures – Sharpe held his own.
“My initial assessment was it was pretty good,” Del Rio said of Sharpe’s outing. “We ran it pretty good, we ended up giving up one sack … I thought for the most part he did well.”
To start the game, the Raiders utilized several six-linemen sets with Alexander as the extra man. Once he suffered a concussion in the first quarter and didn’t return, Sharpe fended for himself on the left side. With Penn and guard/center Jon Feliciano already placed on injured reserve before the game, Oakland’s deepest position group suddenly became its thinnest.
Alexander hasn’t practiced yet this week, so expect Sharpe to handle 100% of the offensive snaps on Sunday as he did against the Eagles. This week’s game against the Chargers may deliver a tougher test, though, with arguably the NFL’s best pass-rushing tandem in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram lining up across from him.
“They do a great job of moving their alignments around,” Downing said. “Sometimes in third down, you know passing situations, you’ll get them both on the same side of the field, which can create a little bit more difficult chipping scenario. You better make sure you know where they’re at.”
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Bosa and Ingram have combined for 22.5 sacks this season. If both line up on Sharpe’s side, he’ll need some help. Blocking just one of them is a tall enough order. He could have two in his sight at times. Sharpe seems confident in his ability, even if he doesn’t do much talking. His play Monday talked for him, and it ended up being more than enough, especially for a NFL debut.
Now there’s no excuse of a debut for the mammoth rookie, though growing pains are still expected. Sharpe has set the bar fairly high, and there’s only one chance left to leave a positive impression before the offseason.
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“It was like God-given,” Sharpe said. “You get to play on Monday night, big stage, first start, against the Eagles. Man, it was crazy. It was just a great feeling.
“You could always do better, but I did well. I held it down over there the best I could. Coach was pleased, so that’s always good. Definitely got more to work on.”