Starter: Curtis Lofton
Depth: Ben Heeney, Spencer Hadley, Chase Williams
For the fourth straight season, the Raiders will have a new middle linebacker. He is Curtis Lofton, who was cut by the Saints. Behind him will be fifth round rookie Ben Heeney. After that, it's insurance in 2014 practice squad player Spencer Hadley and undrafted rookie Chase Williams.
Condition: Touch and go
Most fans are just thankful Miles Burris won't be starting at middle linebacker anymore. He was rated the worst middle linebacker in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus. But just three spots up from Burris in the ranking was Curtis Lofton. For Lofton, the glaring issue was missed tackles. He led all linebackers with 22 missed tackles, which was second in the NFL at any position.
There is reason for hope, however, because while Lofton led all inside linebackers in missed tackles, he also led the league in solo tackles (123). He had a lot of pressure on him as the man in the middle of one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season in New Orleans. The whole thing leaves you not knowing what to expect from him. He could very well be the best middle linebacker the Raiders have had in some time. Though that may not be saying a whole lot.
Behind Lofton is rookie Ben Heeney, who also was known for his missed tackles in college at Kansas. Some have called him Miles Burris 2.0, but that seems unfounded. Mainly because Heeney is a true middle linebacker while Burris was playing out of position. The Raiders have also lacked depth in the middle in recent years and Heeney should provide that.
No way of knowing what to expect from Spency Hadley and Chase Williams. At this moment, they are camp insurance.