Aug 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) is congratulated by outside linebacker Sio Moore (55) after recording a sack against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Lions 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Linebacker: Projected Starters – Khalil Mack, Nick Roach (?) and Sio Moore
When it comes to outside linebackers, the Raiders are in good shape in my opinion. Mack and Moore remind me of the Bash Brothers from the Mighty Duck movies, going out and causing as much damage and disruption as possible. Reports have been that Roach would like to come back and play next year after missing an unusual amount of time for concussion like symptoms.
If Roach is able to come back, then simply adding depth to the interior linebacker position would be ideal. If not, the Inside/Middle Linebacker is a serious need for the Raiders.
Luckily, free agency may have the answer regardless of Roach’s medical situation. Brandon Spikes from the Buffalo Bills should be a high priority for the Raiders this off season. He’s still relatively young, at 27 years old, he’s playing at a very high level right now, being ranked 13th overall for inside linebackers by PFF. Spikes is a player who doesn’t necessarily light up the stat lines, but his impact is felt during the game. He has solid over the middle coverage skills, and he’s great at stopping the run.
A 3-4 set of Mack, Roach, Spikes, and Moore the Raiders’ linebacking corp would be one of the most feared in the NFL. If Del Rio goes more with a 4-3, then Spikes and Roach would be able to sub in and out to keep both of them fresh through the whole game. Spikes also has the smarts to be able to fill in as an outside linebacker is Mack is asked to line up as a D-End in a 4-3 set.
If the draft is where they choose to upgrade the position, it is very possible the best player at the interior linebacker position could be available for them to pick up in the 2nd round. Eric Kendricks out of UCLA is a terror on the field. Very solid instinctual player, who is capable of making hits so hard over the middle, what he lacks in coverage skills he could make up for by putting fear into the receivers who come into his area.
Kendricks is also a player who is always around the ball, racking up 150 tackles…IN A SINGLE SEASON. Something that has him hovering around the late first, or early second round on many early draft projections from the experts.
Ideally, I’d like to add Spikes and Kendricks to the roster, but it most likely won’t happen. I believe the Raiders linebacking corp is probably its most complete unit if Roach returns, even without an upgrade, but the lack of depth at the position proved to be an Achilles heel for the Raiders. When Roach went out, and Burris was forced into the position, defenses were able to take advantage of Burris’ weaknesses and pass at will on the lowest rated linebacker in the NFL.
Next: Offseason Upgrades: Defensive Line