Oakland Raiders Offseason Needs: Linebacker

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Nov 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason (27) is defended by Oakland Raiders linebacker Miles Burris (56) on an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter at Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is so much talk about the Defensive Line, and the Wide Receiver positions and how they are the biggest need for the Raiders to address in the off season. I want to talk about some of the other needs that may be getting overshadowed by the D-Line and Receivers, starting with Linebackers. (note: I’m not going to talk about Kahlil Mack in this article, its obvious his position is locked up)

There were/are a few injuries that are of concern: Reports coming out that Middle Linebacker, Nick Roach, will most likely be missing another season due to a concussion he suffered early in the 2014 season. Outside Linebacker, Sio Moore, appears to be going to miss OTAs, but should possibly be back by training camp.

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Roach’s replacement, Miles Burris, was one of the worst overall players in the NFL last season. Burris’ biggest weakness was discovered early, and exploited by opposing offenses often. His pass coverage. Quarterbacks had a hay day picking on Burris, completing over 70% of their passes when throwing his way, and averaging a 127.6 quarterback rating.

Burris even gave up 5 TDs in coverage as well. With seven of the Raiders games last year being decided by a TD or less, these kind of numbers cannot repeat at this position. His run defense was even worse, averaging at least 1 missed tackle per game. All that being said, I believe Miles can develop into a strong rotational player, someday. I said it all along last season, he was put in an incredibly hard position, being forced to start when he clearly wasn’t ready.

The problem is and was that the Raiders just didn’t have enough depth at the Linebacker position to make up for the loss of such a reliable player like Roach. Burris has a place on the team to provide depth, but he is just not an every snap player at the NFL level.

Ray-Ray Armstrong came in and actually impressed me with is play last season, especially down the stretch at the end of the season. He was able to cause a fumble force against Denver, then getting a Defended Pass against Buffalo while filling in for Sio. In the final three games of the season, Armstrong had 9 stops, was in on 14 tackles, and even got in the face of the QB a bit with 1 hurry and 2 hits.

Armstrong did have 5 missed tackles, and like Burris, was a liability in pass coverage, giving up at least one chunk play in pass coverage in the same stretch.  He may be able to develop into a solid player, but like Burris, he’s just not ready.

Most reports are expecting Moore to return in time for Training Camp, but him being out made the lack of depth in the Linebacker Corp even more obvious. Finding a replacement for Roach, and a more consistent backup to Moore will be imperative in building a dominant front 7 for the Raiders moving forward.

Next: Addressing the Need