I compared the offensive tackle corps from last year to this, so now we go inside to compare those lining up along the interior at both guard spots and the center position to see if the Raiders look to take a step forward or backward this season.
This was a close one. On the surface, it appears all the Raiders did was lose a player - Cooper Carlisle. They didn't sign a veteran free agent or draft anyone. There are just two new additions - undrafted rookies Andrew Robiskie and Lamar Mady - and a net loss from the six interior linemen they carried through last season.
To see this as a step forward, you must understand Carlisle's departure was not a "loss". It isn't a gain either, it's simply what was in the plans. The team made Tony Bergstrom their highest draft pick (round 3 compensatory pick) in the 2012 draft with the intention of making him the team's next left guard. That time is now so the team didn't re-sign the 36-year-old Carlisle to follow that plan.
A pleasant surprise from last year was undrafted free agent Lucas Nix. Now instead of the team simply handing the ball to Bergstrom and hoping for the best, they have a very good competition going to earn the starting left guard job. They are both young and have no gotten a year of NFL coaching and developing under their belts. That's a great situation to be in.
There were six interior linemen on the roster last season but Bergstrom was pulling double duty, also backing up at left tackle. That means the team could very well go into the season with five guys which would be all the same crew, sans Carlisle. If they go with six, it leaves the door open for another UDFA - like Nix last year - to earn a roster spot.
Winsiewski and Brisiel will remain starters at center and right guard respectively. However, Brisiel was hampered by an ankle injury all last season so I expect his play should improve this year tremendously.
Across the board this group will perform better simply by leaving the zone blocking scheme behind and going back to the power blocking scheme. New offensive line coach Tony Sparano should help matters a great deal as well.