The Las Vegas Raiders have some talented players at the linebacker position, but where do they rank in terms of the rest of the AFC West?
Last offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders brought in two major additions to the linebacker room with the signings of Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. By bringing in these two players, the hope was that they could finally fix the woes that have plagued the Raiders defense for nearly a decade.
Unfortunately, it did not happen that way, as Littleton underperformed and seemed lost in Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme for most of the season, then got put on the COVID 19 list. Kwiatkoski got injured early in the year, before putting together a couple of pretty solid games toward the end of the season, giving hope that he can at least solidify the middle of the defense.
The Raiders’ best linebacker during the 2020 season was Nicholas Morrow, the only other player other than Derek Carr to be a holdover from the previous regime, and was re-signed this offseason to a one-year deal. Rookies Tanner Muse and Javin White did not contribute much, or at all in the case of Muse, but look to be able to provide solid depth and a role on special teams in 2021.
No other major linebacker moves we made this offseason other than the drafting of Divine Deablo in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Deablo was a safety during his time at Virginia Tech, but with the NFL getting more athletic, the bigger and in between players are going to be moving from safety to linebacker more often, which is the same exact thing the Raiders are doing with Muse, who was also a safety in college at Clemson.
The Raiders making no moves in the linebacker room shows that new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and new linebackers coach Richard Smith feel comfortable and confident in what they already see on the roster, and is ready to roll going into the season. Every linebacker was also present during voluntary and mandatory minicamp last month, except Deablo, due to an undisclosed injury, but he was in the building working with the training staff.
This season, my belief is new coaches and schemes are going to maximize what these players do best but better than that, they are going to simplify it so the players are doing, and not stuck thinking while on the field. Let’s see where the Raiders rank in terms of the linebacker position compared to the rest of the AFC West.