Four years ago the Raiders boasted of one of the most promising young linebacker duos in the NFL. As of yesterday that unit has officially been dismantled. Thomas Howard has taken his talents to Cincinnati. Once viewed as a freakish athlete with All-Pro potential, Howard was relegated to special teams service last season.
The only real mystery is why it took over a year for Howard and the Raiders to part ways.
Ever the professional, Howard watched as his starting job was handed over to Quentin Groves and then Travis Goethel. Not once did Howard complain, only expressing his gratitude for the privilege to be a Raider.
Mr. 53 and Captain Kirk Morrison had all the talent yet never seemed to put it all together. While Morrison racked up plenty of tackles most came downfield instead of at the line of scrimmage. Thus Al Davis jumped on Rolando McClain and gave Morrison a one-way ticket to Jacksonville.
With Howard the transition was much different. The Raiders didn’t so much find a replacement for Howard. They just pretty much moved on.
As far as character goes Howard is as solid as they come in the NFL. He’ll be a great fit in Cincy where he should get the chance to start again. The problem was Howard’s game never progressed to the level his physical abilities dictated. He is blessed with blazing speed yet routinely over pursued taking himself out of plays. He showed the ability to make plays in pass coverage yet never did so consistently.
Some of Howard’s lack of production can be traced to the simplistic manner in which his skills were utilized. Rarely did the Raiders send him on blitzes off the edge. With Howard’s speed he could have been a terror to opposing QBs. When they did dial Howard’s number the results were mixed. Sometimes he was a quarterback-seeking-missile with laser lock on his target. Other times his speed got the best of him as he flew by blockers and passers alike.
Despite his lack of production I still held hope the Raiders would find some way to keep him on board. You need team first guys like Howard in order to succeed. In the end he still has enough left in the tank to pursue more lucrative offers elsewhere.
I wish nothing but the best for Thomas Howard. It’s with a melancholy tone that I bid farewell as the doors on the Law Firm of Morrison and Howard are closed for the last time.