Left guard competition heats up on eve of first training camp practice

The competition at left guard – already one of the biggest position battles for the 2019 Oakland Raiders – got a little more interesting Friday afternoon.

With veteran lineman Richie Incognito – one of the front runners for the job – facing a two-game suspension, General Manager Mike Mayock announced during his introductory press conference of training camp that Denzelle Good would be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

“On the PUP, Denzelle Good had lower back surgery five weeks ago,” said Mayock. “Prognosis is plus or minus two months from around right now.”

If that rough prognosis holds true, that would put Good on pace to return sometime around Week 3 or Week 4, and with Incognito unable to play the first two regular season games of 2019, a quality option to line up next to Kolton Miller is now even more paramount than ever.

So, looking at the roster’s current construction, who does Head Coach Jon Gruden think will slot in and hopefully provide some consistency along the interior line?

“We signed Jonathan Cooper, former first round pick of Arizona, who’s been in the league for a while,” Gruden said when asked just that. “Played in a system last year that was very similar to the one that we run. I’m really impressed with Cooper. He came in healthy. He’s really smart and athletic, and to have a couple veteran guards play next to Kolton Miller is something that we’re excited about, but we’re certainly going to have some competition this summer at left guard.”

With 46 career appearances under his belt, Cooper certainly has the experience to step in and fill the void along the left side, but he’ll have to stack good days in Napa to really solidify a hold on that job.

In terms of Incognito – whose suspension came down from the NFL two weeks ago – while he won’t be on the field until the Silver and Black’s first road game Week 3, Mayock and Gruden have been pleased by what he’s brought to the team thus far.

“The day we addressed it in Alameda, I told you guys point blank, that we expected some kind of suspension,” Mayock said. “We knew about it. We planned for it. We think we executed accordingly. As far as Rich himself, from my prospective – Jon can talk about it more – but from my prospective, I go back several line coaches with him. I’ve known all the guys that have coached him over the years. I knew the Richie Incognito story for years, and there are some dark moments, but there are an awful lot of bright moments also.

He continued, “He [Incognito] has been nothing but phenomenal both to the young guys in the building in the offensive line room. He’s been responsive to me. I’ve sat him down in my office four to five different times, and it’s been all about off the field. I know he can handle on the field, just sitting down, having mature conversations.”

To be clear, Incognito is still eligible to practice with the team – as well as play in the preseason – but nevertheless, seeing who lines up at left guard with the starting offensive line during Saturday’s practice will be something to keep an eye on.

Check out the kicks the Raiders players are rocking into Napa, Calif. as they report for 2019 Training Camp.

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