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NAPA – Khalif Barnes slid in from right tackle to guard on Sunday afternoon, a move seemingly predicated by the Raiders' dire injury situation along the offensive line.
It wasn’t. Head coach Dennis Allen is considering the idea of Barnes playing on the interior line.
“He’s a big guy that has some power, so having him play guard is something we want to look at,” Allen said. “Him moving inside some allows us to mix and match the lineups a little bit and see what we’ve got. That was something that we had planned on doing throughout camp, and we took the opportunity today with Brisiel being down. We decided to put him in there to see what he can do.”
At this stage, it’s an experiment. Barnes is still expected to start at right tackle. Menelik Waston was supposed to challenge Barnes, but the second-round pick hasn’t practiced with an undisclosed, non-football-related injury.
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The Raiders have few remaining options at tackle should Barnes move inside. Alex Barron would be the next best option. The veteran has impressed in camp, but hasn’t cracked a regular-season roster since 2010.
Barnes hasn’t played guard, save one regular-season game in 2010. He’s prepared to back up at those positions, but he's been focused on tackle most of his career.
The experience was unusual, but Barnes said he wouldn’t object to a position switch or, in what’s more likely, to being a reserve in times of crisis. “I haven’t played there in a few years, so I have to get the footwork back down, but it shouldn’t take long,” Barnes said. “The more do you something the easier it gets, and that’ll be the case at guard. “If they end up having to rotate some pieces, playing multiple positions makes you more valuable. I don’t mind it. I’ll do whatever they ask me to do. “
Barnes might be a fit at guard under the Raiders new, power-based blocking scheme. The 6-foot-6, 321-pound veteran is a people mover and fits a system where guards must be both powerful and smart.
“We’re trying to find out what the best line combination is,” Allen said. “We want the front that will give our offense the best chance for success.”