Weakness: Middle Linebacker
Do the Raiders have a problem at middle linebacker?
According to Cover32, they do have a weakness at the position:
"In my opinion, the Raiders have two 4-3 weakside linebackers trying to play middle linebacker. Both Heeney and Smith are better tracking the play that goes away from them than they are dealing with a play that comes right at them. Both have good range and good instincts that allow them to make good plays in pursuit. But when they cannot run freely because of blockers, their efficiency is just demolished and that’s what we’ve seen all preseason."
Both Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith are undersized 4-3 middle linebackers so they seemed like fits inside together in the mostly 3-4 defensive looks by Oakland.
However, I’d agree that Heeney and Smith play batter tracking the ball from behind as weakside backers in the 4-3. Rather than attacking plays and blockers that are coming right at them via the inside linebacker position.
Some of this is attributed to the defensive line not eating enough blocks. Regardless, we have known that both players struggled shedding blocks.
Either way, head coach Jack Del Rio said he took the struggles of the Raiders run defense personally as a former NFL linebacker. Hopefully, he can get these two guys playing better. Otherwise, could Neiron Ball or Cory James play the position better?
Next: Defensive Tackle