Oakland Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry (photo by Levi Damien)
Linebacker was the weakest area for the Raiders this off season. It was not exactly a strong point during the season either. This underachieving and in some cases overpaid group was due for an infusion of new talent.
The middle was headed by Rolando McClain who watched his head while being put in a squad car off the field and his on-field play headed south. Behind Rolando (although not for long if "Death Ro" can't straighten up his act) is Travis Goethel. The team also drafted Nathan Stupar in the seventh round.
Also returning is weak side linebacker Aaron Curry. Last year's starting strong side linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley was cut to relieve the team of his huge cap burden and he was replaced by Colt free agent, Philip Wheeler. Then the team spent their round four pick on Miles Burris who is expected to contribute right away.
The weak side of the line is still... well... weak. There is a good chance the team adds another linebacker before training camp.
Here is the Raiders linebacker depth chart as we head into mini camps:
1. Rolando McClain- The new coaching staff love his talent but don't particularly care for his immaturity. He settled one lawsuit he had against from back in college and is set to be in court this month for the incident in which he allegedly put a gun to a man's head a fired off a round by his ear. This is the supposed leader of the defense.
2. Travis Goethel- has been injured the past two seasons but if he can stay healthy, there are high hopes for him. A very smart player who has looked good in limited preseason work.
3. Nathan Stupar- The Raiders traded down ten spots in the fifth round and received a seventh round pick with which they chose Stupar. He played on the outside at Penn State but said in a conference call after he was drafted that the Raiders intend to move him inside. He will be an insurance plan in case Goethel gets injured. Otherwise he is destined for the practice squad if/when Goethel does get injured or McClain gets suspended.
Strong side linebacker
1. Philip Wheeler- signed a one year deal as a free agent. His signing was to replace Kamerion Wimbley directly.
2. Miles Burris- looks like he could be a future star. The Raiders will get him on the field as much as they can. His energy and aggressive nature will help tremendously. Will either replace Wheeler after this season or move to another position.
Weak side linebacker
1. Aaron Curry- Cut his pay in half and took an extension with three voidable years to stay with the team. He is all hustle, all the time and the team intends on setting him free on the weak side to see if he can keep the job long term.
3-4 outside linebackers
Carl Ihenacho- Came out of college as a 3-4 OLB prospect. Spent part of last season on the practice squad. The San Jose State product is hoping to stay at home as a Raider. Will do most of his work on special teams.
*Mario Kurn- Signed as an undrafted free agent, he was the only FCS player on the Ted Hendricks 2011 preseason watch list for best defensive end in college football. Led all of FCS with 17 sacks and 27 tackles for loss as a junior. Has a chance to really surprise at either outside linebacker spot if he can handle dropping into coverage.
*The Raiders have not officially confirmed undrafted free agent signings.