Starters: Khalil Mack, Sio Moore
Depth: Malcolm Smith, Ray Ray Armstrong, Neiron Ball, Josh Shirley, Horace Miller
Returning as the starters at both outside linebacker positions is Khalil Mack and Sio Moore. Added to the group is former Seahawks linebacker, Malcolm Smith. Ray-Ray Armstrong returns as a reserve after the team claimed him off waivers from the Rams midway through last season. The final three players are all rookies 6th round pick Neiron Ball and undrafted rookies Shirley and Miller.
After just his rookie season, fifth overall pick Khalil Mack is one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. He is the key to the Raiders defense both as a run defender and as a pass rusher from the strong side.
On the other side is Sio Moore, who is coming off a hip injury and looks to be full strength to start training camp. He is a fiery presence from the weak side, offering plenty as a pass rusher as well as in coverage. His one area which could use improvement is his discipline, both as a run defender and in his maturity. When focused, he is a very good linebacker.
Adding Malcolm Smith can't be overlooked. The former Super Bowl MVP not only adds depth to the position, he gives the Raiders the option of switching to a 3-4 set without sacrificing talent on the field. The team has also raved about the play of Ray-Ray Armstrong as depth on the weakside. He has been filling in nicely for Sio Moore during his recovery from hip surgery. He has a penchant for extracurricular activities, causing penalty flags. If he can get that under control, he could be a good contributor.
Of the three other linebackers, Neiron Ball has the inside track as he was drafted. But that alone isn't enough to earn him a roster spot. The winner of that spot will go to the guy who can show up big on special teams.