Despite a brutal 20-19 loss, the Oakland Raiders can enjoy a bright spot, of sorts. The Raiders almost employ an entire new starting defense in 2018. However, outside of the secondary, nothing appears more improved than their linebacker corps. Bringing in Tahir Whitehead, Derrick Johnson, and Emmanuel Lamur seems smart for the Raiders. Yesterday, Whitehead and Johnson accounted for twelve tackles.
It is also a big help that they are on the team to help young players, in particular Marquel Lee. Lee, the fifth round product from Wake Forest, saw a lot of time in his rookie season. Now as a starter, he is prepared to take a big step in his second season. Lee possesses the strength and IQ to evolve into a good linebacker. In Paul Guenther’s system, he prefers linebackers to play downhill with malice. Now with a year under his belt, he looks to improve on the finer points.
To this point, Tahir Whitehead is the best linebacker on the Raiders. After a solid game in Denver, Whitehead hopes to continue this path in Miami. He possesses the knack for finding the ball carrier and stopping them in their tracks. For the Raiders defense to be successful in 2018 he will have to be a big part in contributing to that.
If you listen to Jon Gruden, he details calling more blitzes. In return, expect the linebackers to rush. As a result, this helps the line. However, it leaves single coverage on the outside. In that case, the secondary needs to tighten up. Moreover, there cannot be blown coverage.
Derrick Johnson is has been a pleasant surprise for this Raiders defense. For what seemed to be a lifelong Chief, KC released him in the offseason. Under those consequences, he decided to join the Raiders. Although, Johnson is 35 years old, he still shows pop. While some quickness vanished, he makes up for it with his great ball skills and guile that keeps him prepared.
In reality, the coaching staff will require the linebackers to do even more. With zero push upfront, look for the ‘backers to blitz more often. If the line cannot generate pressure, this falls solely on the linebackers. More importantly, they must blitz soundly. Paul Guenther loves the A gap blitz. That means, he will send pressure on either side of the center. In return, this forces the quarterback to a side. Hopefully, an end will be awaiting him.When the Raiders finish September, we will see how much this group impacts the entire defense.