The Oakland Raiders are in the process of rebuilding an offensive line that was among the league's worst for a number of years. Over the past two NFL drafts, the Raiders have found two big time pieces to their offensive line in left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski. Both of these guys have looked great early in their careers, and if they continue on the path they are on, they will likely be anchors of this offensive line for years to come.
Last year, in his rookie season, Wisniewski played left guard along side Veldheer and the two made a dominant left side of the line. This season, however, Wisniewski will be moved to center, where the Raiders plan on keeping him. That means his spot at left guard is suddenly vacant and gives the Raiders an interesting scenario going into training camp.
The Raiders added two guards this off season with the free agent signing of Mike Brisiel and the third round pick used on Tony Bergstrom. They also cut, then resigned Cooper Carlisle at a much lower price, leaving the Raiders with three potential starters battling for the two starting guard positions.
Mike Brisiel is all but guaranteed a starting job, and at his natural position as a right guard. Brisiel was signed by the Raiders because he excels in the zone blocking scheme that offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp plans on implementing. In addition, Brisiel played under Knapp in Houston last season and is very familiar with the offense that most of the Raiders are still trying to learn. This was a great signing by general manager Reggie McKenzie. Due to the fact that Brisiel only excels in zone blocking, his value was limited and the Raiders were able to grab a guy who represents a big upgrade on their line for a good price.
With the right guard spot tabbed for Brisiel, that leaves veteran Cooper Carlisle and rookie Tony Bergstrom to battle for the starting left guard position. Carlisle is a 12 year veteran who has spent the last five years as a starter for the Raiders. For at least the past two to three years, the Raiders have been in need of replacing Carlisle as he is clearly on the downside of his career. Both he and the Raiders are hoping that he will step it up this season now that the Raiders have gone back to the zone blocking scheme that Carlisle plays better in, and now that he has some real competition on his heels for the first time in years.
That competition will come from third round draft pick Tony Bergstrom. Despite not being taken until the third round, Bergstrom is a guy who many tag as capable of becoming a starter in the NFL. Bergstrom played tackle in college but has been projected as an NFL guard, and that is exactly how the Raiders plan on using him. Going into training camp, Carlisle will be the odds on favorite to start at left guard if for not other reason than because of his experience. However, if Bergstrom plays well, and Carlisle continues to show signs of aging and deterioration in his play, there is a good chance that Carlisle finds himself playing back up this season.