The Oakland Raiders have not had a solid five man starting offensive line in years. The Raiders currently have two positions on their offensive line that are solid, left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski. That leaves both guard positions and the right tackle position up for grabs this off season.
The starters last season were Mike Brisiel and Cooper Carlisle at the guard positions and Khalif Barnes at right tackle. Carlisle is no longer with the team which instantly creates an open competition at the left guard position.
Brisiel was a huge let down in his first season with the Raiders, but injuries may have played a role in his poor play. He will be given every opportunity to be the starter, but he is susceptible to being overtaken, especially since he is considered more of a zone blocking specialist.
During OTAs, the Raiders had Tony Bergstrom lining up as the first team left guard. He was drafted in 2012 to be the starting left guard and after one season as a back up, the Raiders hope he is ready to take over.
The wildcard at the guard position is Lucas Nix. An undrafted free agent in 2012, Nix made the team but only played in one game. That being said, the Raiders like him, it is just a question of how much he has developed. If either of the guard positions struggles, Nix may get a shot at stepping into the starting role.
Barnes actually had a fairly decent season in 2012, but that is not saying a whole lot. He is still a liability far more often than he is a benefit. He commits too many penalties and blows his assignments in the passing game far too often. He is an adequate starter if need be, but it is definitely a position that the Raiders should want to upgrade at.
That is exactly why the Raiders drafted Melenik Watson in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The Raiders clearly envision as the future starting right tackle, the only question is how far in the future. Watson, who is from England, has only played organized football for two years. But with that being said, he sure learned quickly. After one season playing at a junior college, he transferred to Florida State where he was dominant at the right tackle position.
Watson is still raw and has a lot to learn so it will be tough for him to win the starting job. It is more likely that Barnes is the starter at the beginning of the season and that Watson gets a shot mid season if Barnes is struggling. You never know though, he could blow the coaching staff away at training camp.
No matter what the five starter combination in Oakland will be to start the 2013 season, it won’t be great. There is still a lot of work to do on the offensive line, but they are headed in the right direction. There will be real competition at a lot of spots for the first time in a while which is a very good sign.