We move inside to guard and check under the hood to see how this puppy is running. That's what the guards do is open channels so the team can run. Their job is also to protect the quarterback so he doesn't have to run. Here's how the Raiders currently stand at the guard position:
C Stefen Wisniewski - 14 starts
RG Mike Brisiel - 15 starts
LG Lucas Nix - 10 starts
LG Khalif Barnes - 5 starts
OG Lamar Mady - 0 starts (7 games)
Tony Bergstrom - Placed on IR prior to the season
Stefen Wisniewski is the standout of this bunch. He is the best run and pass blocker from the center position. The one thing he struggled with this season was his snaps. Several times his errant snaps caused fumbles - including some that set opponents up in scoring position. It is a concern and one that hadn't been an issue prior to this season.
The good news for the Raiders is Mike Brisiel played fairly well. He also lasted most of the season which is something he is not known to do. He is in the middle of a five-year deal so he will likely remain the starting right guard.
The left guard position is entirely a different story. It was a revolving door last season and was one of the weakest positions on the team. The Raiders hoped former top pick (third round), Tony Bergstrom, could have a break out year coming into his second season with the team. He went down injured in camp and was placed on injured reserve. Even worse, he had already been beaten out by Lucas Nix for the starting job.
Ah, yes, Lucas Nix. Rated as the absolute worst guard in all of football by Pro Football Focus. And I'm sure for anyone watching closely, they could have said the same. Dude gave up 33 quarterback pressures and five sacks. Those are numbers usually reserved for a tackle dealing with outside speed rushers all day. And his run blocking was pretty horrid too.
The Raiders eventually replaced Nix when Jared Veldheer returned to play left tackle and Khalif Barnes moved inside. The transition wasn't incredibly smooth but markedly better. Although that may not be saying a whole lot.
Lamar Mady was an undrafted free agent who was called up to the active roster from the practice squad due to the injuries at the position.
Team need: High
There can be a fine line between a high need and an urgent one. The only things keeping this from being urgent are two possibilities. 1) Bergstrom is somehow able to improve drastically from last year's camp. 2) The team yet again re-signs Khalif Barnes with the intention of starting him at guard again (though this only puts a band aid on the position).
Then there's the third possibility which is a bit more of a flier - move Wisniewski to guard. This is something I hadn't entertained previously because Hue Jackson had said Wisniewski was the team's center of the future and the new regime said he would remain there as well. However, the snapping issues raise concerns that weren't there before. Even still, it doesn't change the team need because if Wisniewski did move to guard, they would have to fill the center position which is not at all easy.