Oakland Raiders depth chart projections: Defense/ST

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Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) leaves the field against the Denver Broncos in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


If there was one position group the Raiders organization and fans could get excited about after 2014, it was the linebacking corps. While the loss of veteran middle linebacker Nick Roach during last years’ preseason and the failure to find an adequate replacement for him certainly played a major role in the failings of the Raider defense last season, the development of the two young outside linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack is cause for celebration.

The Raiders cut ties with Roach – who may never (and should never) play football again – as well as the much maligned Miles Burris and nearly everyone else who suited up at linebacker for the team last year aside from Moore, Mack and promising young linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Spencer Hadley. This offseason, the Raiders signed veteran run-stuffing middle backer Curtis Lofton, formerly of the Saints to shore up that middle linebacker spot. Former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, a cover outside linebacker, followed his linebackers coach Ken Norton (who also coached him at USC) from Seattle to Oakland as well.

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  • The Raiders also added some young talent at the position, adding Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney and Florida linebacker Neiron Ball in the 5th round of the draft and adding UNLV linebacker Josh Shirley and Virginia Tech linebacker as priority rookie free agents. Second year man Horace Miller was also signed after spending time with Ken Norton on the Seattle practice squad last year before being signed to the Panthers active roster.

    The Raiders have a clear cut starting 3: Curtis Lofton at the Mike, Sio Moore at the Will, and of course Khalil Mack at the Stud/Sam spot. Malcolm Smith will likely see heavy action on the field in passing situations, in nickel and dime packages or in situations where Mack has shifted down to be a defensive end.

    Ray-Ray Armstrong seems to have an edge to make the roster as a depth player behind Lofton and/or Moore, as well as a part of the special teams core. Spencer Hadley may take this route onto the 53 man roster as well. But there will be some strong competition with rookies Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball, especially the gritty, firey Heeney who could be a stud on special teams. The Raiders will likely carry only six linebackers on day one, so the competition for those final three spots should be intense.

    Also, it’s unclear as of now how quickly Sio Moore will be able to return from his injury. While he is projected to be back healthy by the start of the regular season, he is currently on the active/NFI list. Still, while on that list he commands a roster spot, and it’s doubtful the Raiders give his roster spot away unless his timetable for return is pushed back significantly.


    1. Khalil Mack (SLB)

    2. Curtis Lofton (MLB)

    3. Sio Moore (WLB)

    4. Malcolm Smith

    5. Ray-Ray Armstrong

    6. Ben Heeney

    PRACTICE SQUAD: Neiron Ball

    RELEASED: Spencer Hadley, Josh Shirley, Horace Miller, Chase Williams

    Next: Depth Chart Projections: Defensive Backs