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Silver and Black Stock Watch: Linebackers


Projected Starters: Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain, Quentin Groves

There has been plenty of talk during this extended off-season about the Raiders making the move to a 3-4. Unless they draft wisely or by some miracle actually get to sign free agents, then that seems highly unlikely given the current personnel. Sure, plenty of the recent additions have been of the OLB/DE hybrid variety. But given the amount of money invested in the defensive line and the fact that there just isn’t the depth at linebacker, it would seem a move to be made at a later time.

The linebacking core wasn’t exactly a strength last year though there were plenty of key contributions throughout the season.

Kamerion Wimbley arrived in the East Bay as a Cleveland castoff. He emerged as a pass rushing dynamo with a $10-million franchise tag. Wimbley’s presence helped revitalize a defense that had been without a consistent pass rusher since the decline and subsequent departure of Derrick Burgess.

If the Raiders have any designs on making the move to a 3-4 then they’re going to need more guys like Wimbley who are as comfortable standing as they are getting down into a three-point stance. Wimbley might not be one of the better assets against the run but that’s where Rolando McClain comes in.

From the second he was drafted McClain was inked in as the starter at middle linebacker. Within 48 hours of drafting the Alabama standout the Raiders parted ways with local legend and lifelong Raider Kirk Morrison. Captain Kirk was a fan favorite for his Bay Area roots and non-stop motor. Problem was the former Aztec was routinely making tackles downfield instead of at the line and more often than not over committed thus taking himself out of many plays.

McClain’s rookie season started slowly. He wasn’t playing poorly its just that he wasn’t making many plays. As the season progressed McClain began to show the potential to be a great defender. There is still much work to be done but McClain’s approach to the game combined with his athletic ability should make for an improved run defense.

If there is a weak link among the Silver and Black linebackers it is on the weak side.

The Trevor Scott experiment yielded few results so he was returned to his end position. By default Quentin Groves inherited the job but he’s by no means a long term solution. Groves came up with a couple of big plays but unless the Raiders are going to go full-time with the 3-4 then Groves doesn’t have much value going forward. This is one of the areas that the Raiders must address in the draft. Starting next season without getting more out of the left side is a sure bet the inability to defend the run will continue.

Stock Rating for the Linebackers: C+

Backups: Thomas Howard, Sam Williams, Travis Goethel

Howard went from perennial starter to special teams contributor last season. He certainly has made some big plays during his Silver and Black days but Howard is now officially on the outs. Give the vet credit, though he could not have been happy, he accepted a reduced role and never complained.

Goethel got a few looks at the weak side and he was very hit or miss. More often miss than hit. The rookie figures to have a long career as a special teams player but still has to make some big strides to be an every down linebacker.

Williams is on scholarship at this point. Al Davis loves athletes and Williams certainly qualifies. He was around when Rob Ryan briefly experimented with the 3-4 some years ago but otherwise Williams has been more of a locker room glue guy and special teams member than a linebacker.

Stock Grade for Backups: D

Potential Draftees: Dontay Moch, Nevada; Chris Carter, Fresno State; Adrian Moten, Maryland

If you want to be a Raider then you’ve got to have size and speed. Dontay Moch gets a check in both of those boxes. He fits the hybrid mold the Raiders love, stands a decent 6’1”, tips the scales at nearly 250-pounds…oh…he also ran a 4.4 40 at the combine. This guys name is on Al’s wish list for sure. He was the 2009 WAC defensive player of the year and has great speed off the edge. There is a certain boom or bust quality to Moch so it could be a roll of the dice should the Raiders use their first pick on him.

Carter is another hybrid type. He has similar size to Nevada’s Moch and is just a step slower with 4.5-second speed. Al loves the local products and Carter is that exactly. He grew up in SoCal’s Inland Empire, attending school in the Central Valley and could be making the move north to the Bay if he’s available in round 3. That seems to be the logical place where Carter will land but with the way the Raiders reach you never know.

Moten is a bit of a stretch. He doesn’t have great size and is another guy that doesn’t have a true position. But he is an athlete and did attend school at the University of Maryland, a program the Raiders have raided in recent drafts (Darrius Heyward-Bey and Bruce Campbell). Depending on where he’s picked, Moten could be a bargain as a special teams contributor. He has some of that coveted upside teams love but also will have to find a defined role in order to flourish in the NFL.

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Tags: Adrian Moten Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Chris Carter Derrick Burgess Dontay Moch Kamerion Wimbley Kirk Morrison Quentin Groves Rob Ryan Rolando McClain Sam Williams Thomas Howard Travis Goethel Trevor Scott

  • JB5

    I think we have the personnel for 3-4 and it should be used on occasion to mix it up. We may not have a proto NT, but Seymour and Kelly cannot both be double-teamed or single-teamed while on the field at the same time. Shaughnessy and Houston are big and good enough to play DE in the 3-4. Wimbley, Scott and Groves can rush from the OLB position. Groves started to get the WLB position in the later part of the season. He needs to work on his coverage in the flats and instead of just blowing up FBs in the backfield, make the RB go inside to the help. McClain was a stud in the 3-4 while at Alabama. Howard can play ILB and flow to the ball with his speed, but will have to avoid OGs at all cost. Goethel can also play ILB, he’s looks to have great instincts which make up for lack of good speed. The secondary has to get it together on zone coverage responsibilities. Last year was horrendous.

    I feel our LBs are on verge to being a good, if not great unit with more time. You could say for all of them, it was their first year at the positions they played. Only dynamic play calling and experience is needed to make the plays happen faster for them. Physical ability is never the question with an Al Davis team. If we do draft a LB, is should be another stout guy to pair with McClain when using the 3-4. Moch would be very interesting as a pass rushing threat only in his first few years. Have not seen anything else from him, so he will be a project. Same with Carter. At the same time, Groves, Scott and Wimbley are similar to them in that aspect coming out of college. Can never have enough pass rushers in this league.

  • Chris Shellcroft

    JB5,

    You’ve been dropping some serious knowledge in your comments lately. Good stuff, keep it coming!

    I’m not totally sold on our personnel to run a full-time 3-4. On occasion? Sure. The problem to me is yes there are guys there that fit the system but how well they play in it remains to be seen. Goves did improve as the year went on but I’m still not sold on him. I do like Goethel and his best bet is the 3-4 as he’ll never be consistent enough in all phases of the game to be in a 4-3.

    Moch is a guy I’ve seen quite a bit of and I feel like he could be a very good pro. The guy is not just all speed, he’s got a killer instict and has a motor.

    So much depends on how the staff puts this talent to use and as you pointed out how well the secondary plays behind them.

  • JB5

    Thanks Chris, great blog!
    I wouldn’t want to run 3-4 all the time. I like our base scheme 4-3 man with single high safety. No holes in that defense. Just not as easy to defend the run when all 11 guys aren’t watching the football like the Steelers and Ravens. Spread those guys out and they can’t cover in man, but we can. It is easy to game plan for though, but for the most part we know what teams are going to try. In the salary cap era, it’s hard to get/keep players that excel in it because they end up being the best at their position and demand to be paid like it. That’s when the scouts and Al Davis have to and lately have succeeded in the latter rounds of the draft. I am definitely intrigued with a guy like Moch’s size and athleticism. He should be able to cover with his speed. While the WAC isn’t top notch competition, he does have experience in dealing with OLinemen against the run. Just has to learn to do it from LB position. We already know about his pass rushing. I would not be mad at all if he’s drafted. Great insurance if Scott isn’t ready to go. I can already hear the analysts talk about him being another typical Al Davis pick. HIEGHT, WIEGHT, SPEED!!! I love it. The biggest, strongest and fastest team in the league. When it all comes together with a mean and nasty mentality, it’s usually Super Bowl or bust.