The guard position on the Oakland Raiders is, without a doubt, the weakest position on the team heading into 2011.
Former starting left guard Robert Gallery will not be returning next season, as he was not willing to take a reasonable salary considering his value is a fraction of what it was when he was drafted.
Opposite Gallery, Cooper Carlisle has been the starter at right guard, and though he is still on the roster, he cannot be allowed to start at that position next season.
Carlisle's skills and talent at the guard position started to decline two years ago, and declined much more this previous year.
If the season were to start today, the starting guards for the Oakland Raiders would likely be Daniel Loper and Bruce Campbell. While this duo would likely be an upgrade from last season, it also likely is not the long term answer.
Loper showed last season that he is capable of manning the position. When Gallery went down with an injury, many were concerned that our offense would take a hit as a result. However, Loper came in and soon, no one even noticed that Gallery was not playing.
However, Loper is not exactly youthful at 29 and has only started nine games in his career.
While he did a good job last season, and would likely do a good job as a starter, if the Raiders want to re-take their position as one of the league's elite teams, we need players who are Pro Bowl caliber, and I'm not sure Loper will ever get there. To me, he is a stop gap until we find something better.
As for Campbell, he is a massive player with a lot of raw talent. However, he did not see the field much last season and is still pretty un-polished.
While he will likely be with the team for years to come, I am not giving up hope that he could develop into our right tackle of the future.
Campbell played tackle in college before moving to guard with the Raiders.
He was moved to guard because it is an easier position to play, and Campbell is still rough around the edges. However, his size is rare, and if he can learn to play the tackle position with skill, that is where he should be.