The guard position is one position where the Oakland Raiders made significant strides to improve. The team signed Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard as well as drafting Gabe Jackson to solidify the position. All the new pieces in place as well as some leftover players will make for serious competition during training camp.
The Raiders plan to use Austin Howard at guard, despite the fact that he has played right tackle for the New York Jets in the past. Offensive line coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Greg Olson see Howard fitting best at right guard, where he will get the first crack to start. The competition will be serious at left guard where Boothe and Jackson will battle for the starting position. The combination of those three players enters training camp with the best possibility of starting in week one of the regular season.
The competition is far from complete after the Raiders find their starters. Oakland has a number of players competing for roster spots and depth positions at guard. The Raiders drafted Tony Bergstrom in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft to become a starter on the offensive line. Since then, he has struggled to see the field and lost all of 2013 due to a foot injury. The Raiders have not given up totally of Bergstrom, but they have upgraded the position around him. He will need to have a healthy and effective training camp to remain in the team's plans.
Two other players on the Oakland roster saw time at guard last season. Lucas Nix and Lamar Mady will be battling to earn a roster spot during training camp. Nix saw action in 14 games for the Raiders last season with 10 starts. He struggled mightily and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the worst guard in football. Mady appeared in seven games for the Raiders at both right and left guard. The team brought him back this offseason after he was brought up from the practice squad in 2013 due to injuries.
It becomes very apparent why general manager Reggie McKenzie felt the need to upgrade this position in the offseason. It was a revolving door in 2013. The Raiders are in a far better position with Howard, Jackson, and Boothe. Now, the team can allow Bergstrom, Mady, and Nix to battle for depth instead of a starting role. This will be a fierce competition throughout camp to see who rises to the top.
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