Defending the pass is of the utmost importance in today’s NFL. For linebackers, that typically means they need to be able to cover tight ends and running backs in one-on-one situations. Over the last couple of years, Tahir Whitehead has proven he is incapable of doing so.
Two years ago, he allowed 10.1 yards per target, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 119.4 when targeted. This past year he somehow got worse as those figures rose to 10.4, six, and 140.4, respectively. For reference, a perfect passer rating is 158.3.
If a backer can’t cover, then as a coach or general manager your hope is that the player can at least get after the quarterback as a pass rusher. In his two seasons donning the Silver and Black, the eight-year veteran has accumulated a total of five pressures and zero sacks, per Pro Football Reference.
Whitehead is known for his abilities as a run defender and did finish the year with a top 15 Pro Football Focus run defense grade at his position. However, the question on Mayock, Gruden and even defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s minds has to be, is it worth it to keep the linebacker around knowing he’s a liability in coverage? It’s a passing league and the former captain gives the team almost nothing when it comes to stopping the opponent’s aerial attack.
According to OverTheCap.com, if Whitehead is cut before June 1st, the team will only suffer about a $1 million cap hit, but that figure jumps to $7.3 million after May. His future with the team may come down to who is available on draft day when Las Vegas picks but don’t be surprised if the organization pulls the plug even earlier.