From day one, Tom Cable knew he would be placing Bruce Campbell at guard to start his NFL career. It seemed like a brilliant idea after taking rookie tackle Jared Veldheer a round earlier in the draft. Having Mario Henderson, Khalif Barnes, Veldheer, and Langston Walker already listed as tackles on the Raiders roster, there is really no room for a guy who needs as much work as Campbell potentially needs to be a high caliber NFL tackle. So, you do what every logical coach would do and put him at guard. After all, he could eventually be a suitable replacement for current right side starter, Cooper Carlisle.
The media members present on the first day of Raiders mini-camp had an opportunity to talk with the rookie guard today. They asked if he had ever played guard before, “This is actually my first time playing offensive guard and actually my first time on the right side. It’s just football. It’s still the same thing, just I have a little more help and I’m inside. I do feel comfortable; it’s not that bad at all. It’s just I have a little more help. I’m not one-on-one outside. I actually am going to start running a lot more than I did at the tackle position anyway. I like to run. I like to use my speed and everything else just to play football. It’s putting [me] somewhere and making me do something I like to do,” said Campbell.
His statement makes it sound as though he likes playing guard and he likes playing football. This is actually something I know a little bit about, because I like to play football and I was a guard in high school. I can relate to this guy, although I doubt I could ever run a 4.85 forty time. Or do 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Coach Cable spoke in his press conference about the decision to put Campbell at guard. The Coach said he wanted Bruce to play guard because of the depth at tackle and the idea that Bruce would get more repetitions in practice at that position. When asked if Campbell would stay on the inside, Cable responded, “I don’t know that. Let’s find out how he learns and how he adapts to what we’re doing. Again, if I put him at one of those tackles spots he’d go in there as a third. This gives him a chance to get in there in that second huddle where he’s going to get a lot of work and we can start his development right away, rather than retard it if he’s getting a few reps as a third.”
We can officially conclude that this move makes perfect sense for the Raiders. When you combine a guy with that much strength and speed moving him to guard is almost a no brainer. Guards are the guys who typically pull when you run power sweep or toss running plays. They are the guys on your offensive line who generally have to move the big bodies that defenses tend to put inside. They are also the guys who have to use that speed to chip on certain plays and get to the next level blocking linebackers up the field.
It also seems as though the Raiders like these players who have a chip on their shoulder lately. Campbell spoke of his chip in his interview, “I feel like I [have a chip on my shoulder] just because most of the negative talk was that I was a good athlete but it seems like I can’t play football. But of course getting here I have to have some type of football skills obviously. So I got a little chip on my shoulder that I really can play football and I’m not just an athlete.”
Campbell also talked about getting to speak to his former college teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey. He said, “I talked to Darrius a little here and there. He saw me today and he was like, ‘Hey, first practice, you have to get used to it. Just keep your head up and keep playing.’ I kind of took it in stride. I didn’t even say anything to him. He just came up and said it so I listened to him and went about my day.”
My first impression of Campbell is that he can be that guy the Raiders will soon need to take over for Cooper Carlisle. Coach Cable said the only thing that is really holding him back at this point is getting used to using his opposite hand for his three point stance. As for whether or not he can become the opening day starter at the right guard position, let me just say, it might be a bit of a reach for Raiders to ask two rookies t o start on the right side of their line with Campbell and Veldheer. But, I will also say that even though the team did not reach with the Campbell selection in the draft this year, it is a team that is accustomed to reaching a bit. After all, they did start two rookie wide receivers last year, and one of them was considered to be a reach as the 7th overall 2009 draft choice.