EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chargers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (CBS), at Qualcomm Stadium
Raiders RG Tony Bergstrom vs. Chargers DT Cam Thomas
Tale of the tape
Bergstrom (70): 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, rookie season, Utah
Thomas (93): 6-foot-4, 335 pounds, third season, North Carolina
SAN DIEGO -- Tony Bergstrom has the distinction of being the first-ever draft pick of the Raiders' new regime. Might the offensive lineman now get his first-ever NFL start?
If so, it would be at right guard, in place of veteran Mike Brisiel, who has been cleared from the concussion he suffered last week but endured an ankle injury that kept him out of practice this week and officially had him listed as questionable to play in the season finale at San Diego.
"He’s going to go through some growing pains like any new player would," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Bergstrom. "I feel good about him. I like what I’ve seen in practice. I also have seen the rookie mistakes that I know, This might show up in a game. But I’m looking forward to get him some reps to see him play live if he has to play. He’s prepared. He’s one of the first guys in the building.
"When asked questions in meetings he’s always on top of his information and the right assignments. I feel like he’s ready to play now. He’s going to go through some growing pains but he’s certainly earned the right to be on the field."
Bergstrom, drafted at the end of the third round with a compensatory pick at No. 95 overall after playing right tackle at Utah, has been active for 13 games and played in eight. He has taken practice reps at both guard spots as well as at tackle. Having made his NFL debut at Atlanta, as part of the field-goal and PAT units, he saw his first extended time on the line at Baltimore at both guard and tackle.
Lately, Bergstrom has seen most of his time as the Raiders' "jumbo" blocking tight end, though he did finish the Carolina game at right guard in place of the concussed Brisiel.
The Chargers, meanwhile, run a base 3-4 defense, so there will be no player lining up directly over Bergstrom, though defensive tackle Cam Thomas might want to test the rookie by going after his gap at times.
Thomas is more a space eater or occupier than a pass-rushing threat, though the Chargers did have 11 sacks last week against the New York Jets. Thomas has 17 tackles in 15 games, with two starts, including last Sunday.
Then might the Raiders need to give Bergstrom some extra help against the likes of Thomas?
"With the protections and certain run games," Allen acknowledged. "That’s one thing we’re doing in our gameplan anyways because we’ve had to split the reps -- we’ve made sure not to have too high of a volume so that we cannot have as many mental errors going in because we’re not going to have as much volume going in. Therefore, they can execute at a much faster pace."