Malcolm Smith has inside track on starting OLB role


Jun 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) stretches at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The training camp battle between former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and Sio Moore for one of the starting spots at outside linebacker was supposed to be a daily storyline at Oakland Raiders training camp that has been quickly overshadowed by the slow injury recovery of Moore from hip surgery. The former third round pick struggling to practice on a daily basis as rumblings about his hip not being 100% have grabbed headlines before the team’s first preseason game later this week.

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That injury to Moore has also given Malcolm Smith a greater chance of earning a starting job for the Raiders after leaving the Seahawks to get increased playing time. The former Super Bowl MVP falling out of the spotlight after his historic playmaking performance in Seattle’s blowout over the Denver Broncos, ending up in Oakland after a reduced role during the team’s second straight NFC Championship saw Smith on the outside looking in on the team’s depth chart for linebackers.

According to ESPN’s Bill Williamson, Smith could be seeing far more playing time than initially expected as a hurt Sio Moore has given the free agent acquisition a chance to showcase himself to head coach Jack Del Rio and his Seattle linebackers coach in new Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. Williamson mentioning that after being brought in as an insurance policy in case Moore didn’t recover from major hip surgery, the former Seahawk could now be taking the job away from last year’s starter judging by training camp performances so far.

From Williamson: 

"The Oakland Raiders signed linebacker Malcolm Smith in March as an insurance policy in case Sio Moore wasn’t ready to return.At worst, Smith, a Super Bowl MVP for the Seattle Seahawks, would be a viable backup and a top special teams player. But after 10 training camp practices, Smith looks solid as a starting weakside linebacker.Moore, a third-round pick two years ago, still has a chance to take his job back. However, he is still not all the way recovered from a hip injury that ended his 2014 season. Moore started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but he has missed some recent workouts, including Wednesday.Oakland coach Jack Del Rio raved about Smith’s camp Tuesday.“I think Malcolm’s had a really good camp for us,” Del Rio said. “He’s a veteran player. He understands what we’re trying to get done. He’s got a knack for stripping the ball. He seems to come up with turnovers almost every day. I’m really excited about the way he’s working at it, applying himself. He’s been very good for us.”"

Familiar with Norton Jr. and coming from a championship roster, it is not surprising that Smith is going to push Moore for snaps this season. When both are at 100% having the decision at who gets the majority of the snaps at weakside linebacker is only going to make the Raiders a better team as they have the most depth they have had at linebacker in years with this current roster. Following a year where injuries to Nick Roach and Moore depleted the linebacker group, a battle between a former Super Bowl MVP going up against a promising young linebacker can only help the Raiders get better regardless of who ends up as the Week 1 starer even if for now it looks like Smith very well could be the man if he continues to impress his new coaching staff.