What are the Oakland Raiders biggest needs entering the bye?

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Inside Linebacker

September 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) runs with the football against Oakland Raiders linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The front seven is definitely strong as a whole, but inside linebacker is the position of the group in most need of an upgrade.

In the offseason, the team signed Curtis Lofton to a 3-year, $18M contract, with $6.5M guaranteed. There is no dead money if Lofton is released in the offseason or the following offseason.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that should happen, as Lofton is a quality linebacker on run-downs, but he is just completely awful in coverage. After the first four weeks, Lofton had allowed all 16 targets thrown his way to be completed. So he literally had allowed 100% of throws his way to be completed, which is insane.

In Sunday’s game against Denver, Lofton was finally pulled on passing downs in favor of Neiron Ball, and that switch paid off handsomely. Ball graded as the third best ILB in coverage for the week, and was a big reason why Owen Daniels was held to zero receptions for the first time since 2009.

Ball hasn’t had much chance to prove himself on run downs though, since Lofton has filled that role well. But seeing more of Neiron in the coming weeks will help determine if he can be a quality starter going forward. Either way, this is still going to be a position the team should look at upgrading.

There are quite a bit of quality, young inside linebackers in the upcoming free agent class. Brandon Marshall is the biggest name that stands out. He also has ties to Jack Del Rio, but he’s a restricted free agent, so it’ll be tough to get him out of Denver.

In the draft, Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack are some of the top defenders in the entire class and both are very likely top 10 picks. If Oakland finds themselves on the clock and either is available, selecting either would likely fit the best player available mentality as well as fill a big need.

Next: Roster Need #4: Right Guard