As I watched the tapes of the Oakland Raiders linebackers in Organized Team Activities (OTA’s), one thing stood out more than anything else. The linebacker corps swarmed to the ball carrier like a black curtain closing around a window and shutting out the light. The numbers on the jerseys remain the same, but the faces are different. Almost an entirely brand new linebacker corps has been purchased and drafted in order to revamp a defense that has not been able to stop the ball carrier.
Linebackers with good, sound fundamentals (i.e., footwork, hip rotation, balance, awareness, etc…) are the focus of the new look defense. There are players that can switch between a 4-3 and 3-4 system without hesitation. They will get after the quarterback, while also being able to plug the gaps and stop the run. This is an element that has been missing for quite a while now.
Leading the Raiders linebacker corps will be 7 year veteran Nick Roach acquired from the Chicago Bears through free agency. On either side of him will be rookie Sio Moore (Connecticut) and, more than likely, 8 year veteran Kevin Burnett or 2nd year player Miles Burris (Knee Injury in OTA’s). The remaining crew will be fighting for roster positions and playing time. The following is a list of the current roster of linebackers:
- Rookies: Sio Moore (Connecticut), Billy Boyko (Lehigh), and Eric Harper (Grambling State).
- New Acquisitions: Nick Roach (Free Agency from Chicago Bears), Kevin Burnett (Free Agency from Miami Dolphins), and Kaluka Maiava (Free Agency from Cleveland Browns).
- On the Roster Last Year: Miles Burris, Travis Goethel, Keenan Clayton, and Kaelin Burnett.
I’m looking forward to this group putting the pads on and competing. Going against running backs like Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings, and Latavius Murray will give them a diverse look at what will be coming their way in the regular season. Furthermore, the linebackers themselves will push our offense to improve and find holes. This will aid our offense in the long run as well. Look for this defense to get after the ball carrier and pressure quarterbacks.