Position outlook: Offensive guard

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, we look at offensive guard:

Looking back: The Oakland Raiders entered training camp with a logjam at guard. The season did not end that way. Mo Collins or Frank Middleton, perhaps both, was rumored to be released at the end of training camp. Collins, who had been with the team since 1998, was injured in training camp and never recovered. The team reached an injury settlement with him.

The Raiders acquired Ron Stone as a free agent from San Francisco. Stone has been one of the best at his position when healthy but that was not the case in 2004. Stone had a calf injury in training camp and only played in five games.

For the second straight year, Middleton saw his season end early with an injury after hurting his quad in a Game 7 matchup against New Orleans.

The Raiders wound up the better part of the season with Brad Badger and rookie Jake Grove, a center by trade, as the guard tandem.

Looking ahead: Badger and Grove did a credible job as the guard tandem but it's not a given they will open the season at that position. While Badger had a solid season and the Raiders could certainly do worse, he's a quality backup in a best-case scenario. Nonetheless, Oakland has far more pressing needs than this position.

Grove figures to start in some capacity on the line since he and fellow second-year-to-be linemate Robert Gallery, right tackle, are building blocks for the offensive line. Grove, could end up battling Adam Treu for the starting center position. Granted, Treu did a solid job in 2004 but it's doubtful the Raiders drafted Grove in the second round as a center without the intent of putting him there.

Middleton and Stone are valuable contributors if healthy but can the Raiders be assured of such? Corey Hulsey is the only other guard by trade currently on the roster and is a solid low-cost backup.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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