Opinions be damned.Whether you like it or not, you need to accept Richie Incognito is the regular season starter at left guard for the Oakland Raiders.
Granted, his suspension the first two games of the season, but with the depth at the spot, the position belongs to Incognito. Denzelle Good, slated to be a viable option at the position, is out for up to two months after undergoing back surgery. Then, castoff journeyman Jonathan Cooper, a former first-round bust jumps in the mix.
Mental health issues resulted in bizarre episodes for Incognito, thus the two-game suspension, but when the offensive lineman stepped up to the mic for a post-practice press conference recently, he sounds like a man who knows the left guard spot is his.
“I think that’s up to the coaching staff. Getting ‘Coop’ mixed in, getting me mixed in, obviously, we have to get Kolton and Rodney comfortable with both of us being in there because I’m going to be gone the first two weeks,” Incognitos said when asked about practice reps. “My approach though, is I’m not changing anything. I’m going to have a two-week break. I’m going to go home, train my butt off, come back in really good shape, so I really don’t think the approach changes on my end, just have to be ready to take some reps, and rotate Coop in there, and I’m excited for ‘Coop.’”
Perhaps a healthy Good doesn’t necessitate the addition of Cooper and a full-blown competition with Incognito. Nevertheless, the what-if scenarios shattered with reality.
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“We signed Jonathan Cooper, former first round pick of Arizona, who’s been in the league for a while,” Gruden said. “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.”
Certainly, Good can return and resume the battle. However, unless he comes in in-shape and strong, he’s behind the eightball with two savvy veterans ahead of him. Especially Incognito, who performed at Pro Bowl levels.
Incognito says he’s not only glad to have football back in his life. Plus, with the team backing him, but he’s eager to become a leader and mentor.
“I think that’s a big part of my role being here, is helping the young guys get prepared,” he said when asked about his role as a mentor. “Get better, teach them some of my ways of keeping the body right, technique, a lot of stuff that comes with playing 12 years in the NFL.”
Suffice it to say, but Incognito can bring the intensity former guard Kelechi Osemele displayed during his Raiders tenure. But mental health is a delicate thing. Just as is the chemistry amongst the trench warriors in the NFL.
Kolton Miller remains at left tackle. Rodney Hudson is a paragon of how to play center in the league. Gabe Jackson is a mauler right guard. Trent Brown is getting premium coin to man the right tackle spot.
That gray area at left guard, though.