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The Changing of the Guard... or Not

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As we recently found out, OG Willie Colon recently had his knee scoped and is expected to be out of 6-8 weeks. He purportedly will be ready to go by training camp, although he'll miss out on the other offseason activities. However, as good as Colon is, and he's very good when healthy, he's still a question mark because he's ended the past four straight seasons on injured reserve.

Despite that, if his knee is up to par, he can be penciled in as the starting right guard. There is nobody on the roster that can beat him when he's healthy. The other position is Brian Winters, the second year guard from Kent State that struggled to start the season but improved markedly towards the end. In all likelihood, he will be starting as well.

Other than Colon and Winters, the team has Dakota Dozier, Oday Aboushi, Will Campbell, Caleb Schlauderaff, Dalton Freeman, and Patrick Ford. Ford is the definition of a camp body, and despite Freeman recently seeing time at guard, he's primarily Nick Mangold's backup at center. That leaves Dozier, Aboushi, Campbell, and Schlauderaff.

Dozier is the most promising of these four players as this year's fourth round draft pick, but it is unreasonable to expect him to start away. Not only was he only a fourth round draft pick (for comparison, Winters was a third rounder), but he's coming from Furman University, a FCS team. For those that don't follow college football, that means it's somewhere between traditional Division I and Division II. As a method of comparison of their level of talent, they played one FBS D-I team this season, Louisiana State University, which they lost 48-16. Due to Dozier's collegiate level of competition and mid-round draft status, it's extremely unlikely he'll be able to start right away.

Among the remaining players, Aboushi was expected to be a right tackle, but the team seems interested in giving him a shot at guard. Campbell is intriguing but a long-term project from his transition from defensive line that is currently recovering from arm surgery, and Schlauderaff is terrible.

If Colon stays injured, the battle will realistically be between Dozier and Aboushi. If that happens, I would expect a similar strategy that the team employed with Winters last year when they started Vlad Ducasse to begin the season and transitioned Winters in after a few games. Similarly, I'd expect them to start Aboushi, who has an extra year of NFL development, and work Dozier in when they think he's ready.