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2019 training camp battles: Left guard

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Taking a look at the candidates for the starting left guard position and who has the best odds of earning it.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

After trading incumbent Kelechi Osemele to the New York Jets this offseason, the Raiders needed to fill a hole at the starting left guard position. Many anticipated the team would invest some draft capital into the position. Instead the team opted to re-sign Denzelle Good and bring in controversial veteran Richie Incognito, forgoing the opportunity to bolster the position in the draft.

In addition to those two, 2019 undrafted free agent Lester Cotton Sr. rounds out the unit as it stands. The post minicamps depth chart had Incognito working with the first team, Good with the second, and Cotton Sr. with the third.

Odds are Incognito is set to be the starter, assuming there are no more hiccups with his behavior. The team wanted him enough to bring him in despite knowing that a suspension was looming and very likely to be handed down. Showing that kind of belief in a player is typically indicative of the organization believing he will be a starter.

With the news that Incognito is suspended for two games, there is now a need for a temporary starter. As such, the Raiders brought in former first round pick Jonathan Cooper to add competition to the position battle.

With all of that in mind, the battle now boils down to who starts the first two games of the season in place of Incognito.

Good was getting reps with the second team during minicamp and even started a handful of games for the Silver and Black last season. Good’s experience with the team gives him a leg up, but by no means is the job his.

At 6’5”, 345 lbs Good is significantly bigger than his primary competition in Cooper. Cooper stands at 6’2”, 310 pounds, but has struggled with far more injuries than Good has. In Cooper’s last four seasons he has played with four different teams and has only played 22 total games.

A myriad of injuries have plagued Cooper, but when healthy, the former 7th overall draft selection of the Arizona Cardinals has been solid. In 2017, Cooper started 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys, playing a key part in a very good front unit that season. In 2018 he shifted over to the Washington Redskins, where he started four games before tearing his bicep, ending his season. Now healthy, Cooper is ready to battle for the starting role while Incognito is out.

On paper, Cooper is the more talented player, but he has a significant injury history. Good has spent a season with the organization and the team liked him enough to resign him as one of the first moves this offseason. It projects to be a very close battle.

The sleeper, well more of long shot, is Cotton Sr. He signed as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama but is much more likely to land on the practice squad. More of a project, Cotton Sr. is not ready to be a starter in the NFL, but having talented players in house to help show him the ropes is surely beneficial to his long-term projections.

Will Good retain his role from 2018 as a second-stringer or will the new signing Cooper earn the job during training camp? It is definitely a battle to keep an eye on as the result could have pretty significant consequences on the 2019 season.