Outside of the pass rush getting home, the Raiders must depend on their linebackers to set make plays. When Ken Norton ran the defense, linebacker play, as a whole, never rose above mediocre. Under Paul Guenther, the Raiders will attempt to set the tone early.

 

Bruce Irvin

Although listed as a weakside ‘backer, Irvin will start at one of the defensive ends spots.

 

Derrick Johnson

Initially, people jeered the signing. However, Johnson’ athleticism will immediately give Oakland a force at MLB. While NaVorro Bowman displayed forced versus the run, his lack of coverage abilities stood out. Despite thirteen years in the league, Johnson still possesses spring in his legs.

Tahir Whitehead

When Whitehead signed in the offseason, Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon came to mind. Whitehead excels at stopping the run. In that case, his skillset fits Oakland. Whitehead takes smart angles of pursuit and is quick enough to slip blocks.

 

Nicholas Morrow

During his   snaps in 2017, Morrow flashed moments of athleticism. Despite his stature, Morrow anchors versus the run well and will stay with a tight end. On the other hand, Morrow’s angles could appear a bit tight and small mistakes cost the Raiders. Yet, I would not count him out of a prominent spot.

 

Marquel Lee

While Lee can bring pop to his tackles, other issues exist. First, in space, can the Raiders trust him? Next, will he make the right moves on perimeter runs? Derrick Johnson occupies the middle for a reason.

 

James Cowser

Rich Bisaccia inherits a gamer on special teams. By nature, Cowser is a rush end that goes upfield. In contrast, the Raider need him in space. More importantly, Cowser’s mindset lends itself to the team concept.

 

Shilique Calhoun

For Calhoun, his miscasting as an outside linebacker does more harm than good. That is to say, why not put line him up at end?

 

Azeem Victor

Granted, Victor does not fit the Reggie McKenzie profile of a smaller school linebacker. However, he checks the box for the apprenticeship at middle linebacker. Eventually, the Raiders will need a younger middle linebacker. In 2018, Victor may not receive the meaningful snaps, so preseason will serve as his audition tape.

 

Emmanuel Lamur

If you are counting on Lamur to snag a starting spot, think again. Lamur’s proficiency resides with kick and punt coverage.

 

Jason Cabinda

Leading up to the draft, some experts touted Cabinda as a late-round pick. Entering camp as an UDFA, Cabinda’s toughness and feisty mentality could unseat Marquel Lee. Draft pick or not, Cabinda feels like Guenther player.

 

Kyle Wilber

If the glut of special teams linebackers does not vastly improve coverage, nothing will. Over six seasons, Wilber started just sixteen games. On the positive side, Wilber forced three fumbles. In that case, look for him to fly around the ball.

 

In reality, the linebacking corps appears decent. Yet, the feeling remains that Derrick Johnson’s importance to this group increased. Considering the depth behind him, he must remain healthy all year.

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