The Las Vegas Raiders currently appear well-stocked and ready for anything their opponents may throw at them. Although head coach Jon Gruden knows the team can never be too prepared, it is possible for us to begin scouting out some of the players that could give the team fits. While the Raiders seem prepared to attack and overwhelm most position groups, linebackers can be a bit of a wildcard. Throughout the season, the Raiders will see varying levels of talent from their opponents’ linebacker corps. While talking about the most exploitable linebackers could be exciting, it is vastly more important to look towards the players giving the Raiders the most trouble.
The first top-tier linebacker the Raiders will face comes in their Week 2 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Although Drew Brees and Michael Thomas may dominate the headlines prior to the game, the Raiders must be prepared for linebacker Demario Davis. Davis began as a tenacious run-stopper but has recently shot up the rankings as a coverage player as well. Obviously, a hybrid linebacker makes things difficult on any team, but the Raiders’ 2019 strategy of shorter passes to slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs play right into Davis’ hands. Hopefully, with a supercharged offense, the Raiders will avoid sending a majority of their offense his way, but when they do, expect Davis to be on top of it.
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The next challenging linebacker the Raiders will be tasked with stopping is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lavonte David. David will be another player overshadowed by his offensive counterparts. Yet, his presence on the field will certainly be felt. David plays with a significant emphasis on run-stopping, meaning it could be a rough day for Josh Jacobs, and blitzing, implying a shorter passing day for Derek Carr. Since his rookie season in 2012, David has led the league in solo tackles but has also shown impressive skills covering the pass as well.
Down the road, in Week 12 to be exact, the Raiders will square off against Deion Jones. On paper, one of the few players with a shot to slow down Darren Waller. Jones flies around the field to cover tight ends or running backs out of the backfield. Should Jones bring his “A” game, the Raiders will have to get more creative to get Waller the ball.
Lastly, and potentially most fearfully, the Raiders will face Darius Leonard and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14. Leonard remains a dominant force from the moment he stepped onto the field in 2018. That season, he led the league in solo and combined tackles. Since Leonard has improved his coverage skills and has been one of the best players at his position. Leonard possesses few weaknesses. Plus, he will influence the majority of the plays he will be on the field for. The Las Vegas Raiders must account for all of the aforementioned linebackers.