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Raiders looking to Kaluka Maiava to fill key role

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Thearon W. Henderson

One of the best looking positions for the Raiders heading into camp this year is the linebacker position. They spent their top draft pick on the position (Khalil Mack) and get two key contributors back from injury plagued 2013 seasons (Miles Burris, Kaluka Maiava).

The players

SLB: Khalil Mack, Marshall McFadden, Kaelin Burnett

MLB: Nick Roach, Kaluka Maiava, Justin Cole

WLB: Miles Burris, Sio Moore, Carlos Fields, Bojay Filimoeatu

What's new?

Khalil Mack. He was the team's top pick in the draft at fifth overall and is expected to do big things for the team. He was immediately placed at the strong side linebacker spot, moving Sio Moore to the weak side. Kaluka Maiava returns after being out most of last season. Kevin Burnett, who started all last season, was released.

The big question

Who will win the starting weakside linebacker job?

Sio Moore won the starting job at strongside linebacker as a rookie last season, but with the addition of Mack, Moore has been moved to the weak side. Miles Burris started at weak side linebacker as a rookie two seasons ago but was injured much of last season. He's back from injury now, creating a competition at the spot. Being that Moore was named to the All-Rookie team last year and he played on the weak side in college, it was assumed the job was his. And initially it was. But by the end of OTA's, Moore was demoted to second team in favor of Burris. Now Burris is the first team linebacker as camp begins and Moore will have to try and earn his job back. Or is it Burris who already earned HIS job back? It is one of the better battles to watch during camp.

Best case scenario

Kaluka Maiava can offer some competition and depth at middle linebacker. He has played weakside linebacker most of his career, including in limited action for the Raiders last season. Even still, the team needs options in the middle and they are hoping Maiava can provide it. A backup middle linebacker who can play well on special teams was one of the questions on Pat Kirwan's 13-point roster depth checklist. There's a lot of value in having a player who can do that.

Worst case scenario

No one ‘wins' the job on the weak side. Burris got the reps in the off-seasons because Moore was having trouble with the transition back to the weak side. Burris' play will be key to watch this training camp and preseason. He had some real issues with tackling as a starter his rookie season, but has bulked up to help try and solve that issue. If he hasn't and yet still starts, it's because Moore has not caught on to his assignments. And what the Raiders would be left with is two smart linebackers in Burris and Roach who know their assignments but can't make the play at the point of attack. There is great depth

Random facts

Khalil Mack will be the third straight Raiders drafted linebacker to start as a rookie. Miles Burris started in 2012 and Sio Moore in 2013.

Prior to Mack being drafted by the Raiders, he had never been to California or the West coast of the US. He was raised in Florida and went to school in Buffalo New York.

Kaelin Burnett is entering his third training camp with the Raiders since they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Nevada-Reno. He rarely plays at linebacker, but is retained due to his special teams prowess. His brother Kevin signed with the Raiders last off-season, starting all 16 games last season, and was cut the day before this year's camp.