One story in a series, looking at position breakdowns for the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA, on July 24. Today – a look at guards:
The Oakland Raiders are achieving something very rare in the National Football League -- they are keeping their offensive line in tact.
The guards are no exception as Frank Middleton, the starter at left guard, and Mo Collins, the starter at right guard, return for another season. Collins tested the market as an unrestricted free agent but ultimately resigned with the Raiders after drawing minimal interest from other teams. Both individuals provide Oakland with 330-pounders on the interior of the line who are capable of being road-graters for the ground game and able pass-blockers.
Middleton has been valuable with his versatility. He started the first six games at right guard in place of an injured Collins while Matt Stinchcomb started on the left side. The Raiders resigned Collins despite his propensity to get hurt. While Collins can be injury prone, he has also been a force on the Raiders offensive line when healthy.
Stinchcomb has not become the starter at left tackle that Oakland envisioned when it drafted him in the first round in 1999. Stinchcomb has played in 43 career games, just 16 in a starting assignment. Stinchcomb, however, played well in Collins' absence last season and that should give the Raiders confidence if something were to happen to Collins or Middleton.
Brad Badger, Langston Walker, sixth-round draft pick Dustin Rykert and Stinchcomb are backups who have the versatility that head coach Bill Callahan covets. All are capable of filling in at guard or tackle. Corey Hulsey, who signed as a free agent from Buffalo might figure into the equation as a backup.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org