Don't label Tony Bergstrom unless it's starting left guard

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Tony Bergstrom is trying to shed the zone blocking lineman label and add the label of starting left guard for the Oakland Raiders.

Tony Bergstrom was considered the best zone blocking guard in last year's draft. The Raiders ran the zone blocking scheme last season and when the Raiders saw him on the board with their third round compensatory pick, he was the ideal choice for what they wanted to do on offense.

What they didn't know at the time was the zone blocking scheme was going to be a massive failure and a one and done idea. Now the offensive lineman they chose with their highest draft pick to play in the zone is expected to step in and be the starter.

The question is, why is Bergstrom lableled as a zone blocking lineman? That is a question he would hasn't quite figured out either.

"I'm not sure where that label came from," said Bergstrom. "I don't know necessarily what that means. Maybe it means I can move a little bit but in this scheme it's good to move. You're pulling around there. I don't really care so much about labels. It's what I put on the field and we'll see if I change that label to a power guy."

The reason the zone blocking label is a head scratcher is because, despite popular perception, according to Bergstrom, that isn't what he ran in college.

"We were mostly a pro scheme," Bergstrom said of his time in college. "We really didn't run a ton of outside zone. We actually did run a lot of power, that was kind of a staple for us there, even out of the spread the year before. But we did a little bit of everything. But being zone last year, it was a bit of a transition coming into this year. You can no longer open your hips to the sideline, (offensive line coach) Tony (Sparano) will beat your ass if you do that."

Also something he didn't do in college was play guard. He was a right tackle at Utah but he was seen as transitioning to the inside in the pros. And for the Raiders, they had their eye on switching him to left guard specifically. But his he had to wait his turn and in the meantime, he jumped all over the offensive line as a utility fill in of sorts.

Now, after getting a couple of starts at left guard late last season, he is the odds on favorite to land the job this season.

"I knew [a move to left guard] was their intention from the beginning but then there was kind of that point where... I mean you get into the season if you're not starting you've gotta be flexible and obviously that's what I had to be last year was flexible. Whether that's the intention or not, you gotta be able to do whatever they ask. So, obviously I bounced around a little bit last year but it's nice to be staying put for a little while."

"That's a big deal, big motivating factor, coming in knowing there's a spot that's open and being competed for and that's kind of the nice thing about it this year with that goal in mind as opposed to coming in and telling you ‘well, you might need to play a little tackle so be ready for that'. It's ‘know the guard and be ready for guard.'"

So, if you are going to label Bergstrom anything, he would prefer it not be a zone blocking specialist. He would prefer the label of starting left guard, and in this year's camp, he will have a chance to prove or disprove both of those labels.

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