Let's start with the left guard spot. It's a bit up in the air right now, but I'll give you three distinct possibilities. First, the guy who filled in for Gallery when he missed four games with injury early in the year: Daniel Loper.
Loper filled in admirably for Gallery in his absence. Since he is 6'6" and 320 pounds, with six years of NFL experience and a lot of tread left on the tires, odds are the Raiders will keep him around with at least a veteran's minimum contract. After spending most of his first four years learning, Loper has started nine games in the last two years for the Raiders and the Detroit Lions and now has a shot to be named the full time starter.
Moving on to someone that Al Davis is anxious to see get on the field, last year's fourth round pick: Bruce Campbell. If Davis believes Cooper Carlisle is still good to go on the right side, Campbell could end up getting the nod at left guard. Campbell has a freakish physique and is incredibly light on his feet. Check this out, he appeared on this TV show that measured his power-packed punch:
"I'm pretty crazy, I talk a lot of junk," Campbell described his play on the field. "I have a lot of confidence in myself on the football field. That's my world – I feel like that's where I belong." Campbell (knee and turf toe) played hurt a lot in his last year of college in 2009. So Campbell couldn't consistently be the beast he was capable of being in his final college year. Coming out of school early after such a year couldn't have helped his cause either but something tells me we will see him on the field in 2011.
The final choice to replace Gallery is an option only if he is drafted by the Raiders. I'm talking about a guy who we will probably talk a lot about between now and the draft, Stefen Wisniewski. I saw a mock draft the other day that had Wiz Jr. going to the New England Patriots as the 33rd pick of the draft. It's only fifteen spots ahead of the Raiders, so a trade up is not out of the question. But the Patriots may not be the only team in front of the Raiders who will be looking to get the pedigree and the services that this kid offers.
Moving on to left tackle, a position of high question headed into last year looks like it will be filled by Jared Veldheer, a Division II Hillsdale product who was a third round pick last year. Veldheer took over for Mario Henderson at about the week six mark and learned a whole heck of a lot about playing left tackle in the NFL. He played against some of the best pass rushers in the league down the stretch and kept Campbell's back clean more often than not. He should be solid to start here for the Raiders in his sophomore year.
Center is another place where we really don't know what's happening right now. Samson Satele's contract is up, but just like Zach Miller and Michael Bush, Satele is in his fourth NFL season, which means he could be tendered a restricted free agent at a pretty cheap price. There was a bit of a buzz towards the end of the year that Satele looked like he had made leaps and bounds of progress since losing the opening day gig to the rookie left tackle, Veldheer. If the Raiders draft Wisniewski, but keep Satele, then most likely Wiz Jr. is your new left guard. With Bruce Campbell taking over duties for Cooper Carlisle on the right side, the Raiders would have a nice group across the front of Veldheer, Wisniewski, Satele, and Campbell.
As for the right tackle, I'm not a big fan of Langston Walker, but Al Davis is. However, Davis is also a Mario Henderson fan. Troubling thing is the Raiders don't seem to be rushing to sign either of them. Almost as soon as Henderson was made the Raiders' starting left tackle over two seasons ago, he signed on with mega sports agent Drew Rosenhaus. If Rosenhaus sticks to his personality, then he is going to want some of that coin Al Davis is handing out this year, meaning Henderson may have to look elsewhere for employment.
I personally think the guy who will play right tackle in 2011 will be someone who is not currently on the roster. Gallery's departure means that the Raiders almost certainly have to take the best available lineman with the 48th overall pick in the draft and may still need a right tackle. It's also a sign that Al Davis is over the whole "scholarship player" thing.
Anyone have a number for an available right tackle? First person to say "Jared Gaither," loses!
Also See: Robert Gallery: "time to move on" from Raiders
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