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2016 Raiders depth chart breakdown, 53-man roster projection, position battles: Linebacker

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In the seventh installment of this series, we look at the linebackers and add them to those we see making the final 53.

Linebacker is one of the strongest positions on the Raiders. With one of the league’s top players overall in Khalil Mack leading the way and some great depth. Here is what I expect the unit will look like come the season.

Starters

Khalil Mack – 3rd year

Malcolm Smith – 6th year

Bruce Irvin – 5th year

Ben Heeney – 2nd year

Mack is coming off an historic season, becoming the only player in history to be named All Pro at two different positions (LB/DE). Irvin joins the squad as a free agent addition. With Mack and Irvin taking the outside linebacker/pass rusher spots, Smith and Heeney will once again take the inside. Both Smith and Heeney are versatile enough to stuff the run as well as drop into coverage. Smith should man the middle linebacker spot in a 4-3 alignment with Heeney joining him at inside linebacker in the 3-4. Or Smith can play outside with Heeney at MLB when Mack lines up as a defensive end. There are some good options available here.

Reserves

Neiron Ball – 2nd year

Shilique Calhoun – Rookie (D-3)

James Cowser – Rookie (UDFA)

Daren Bates – 4th year

Korey Toomer - 3rd year

Ball does his best work on the weakside and dropping into coverage. Calhoun is in the same mold as Mack in his ability to rush the passer from the outside linebacker spot. Cowser has shown well thus far as an outside rusher. Bates is primarily a special teamer, where he was a team captain with the Rams. Toomer is an inside linebacker, which would make him the only ILB depth behind Smith and Heeney. He also excels on special teams.

Practice squad

Cory James – Rookie (D-6)

James will be given every opportunity to beat out Daren Bates to make this team, but ultimately depth could send him to the practice squad which could be a good place for his NFL career to begin to let him develop.

The rest

John Lotulelei – 3rd year

Kyrie Wilson – Rookie (UDFA)

53-man roster projection (40/53)

Quarterbacks (3)

Derek Carr

Matt McGloin

Connor Cook

Running backs (4)

Latavius Murray

DeAndre Washington

Jamize Olawale

Taiwan Jones

Wide receivers (5)

Amari Cooper

Michael Crabtree

Seth Roberts

Andre Holmes

Joe Hansley

Tight end (3)

Clive Walford

Lee Smith

Mychal Rivera

Offensive line (8)

Donald Penn

Kelechi Osemele

Rodney Hudson

Gabe Jackson

Menelik Watson

Austin Howard

Jon Feliciano

Vadal Alexander

Defensive line (8)

Dan Williams

Mario Edwards Jr

Denico Autry

Jihad Ward

Justin Ellis

Damontre Moore

Leon Orr

Stacy McGee

Linebackers (9)

Khalil Mack

Bruce Irvin

Malcolm Smith

Ben Heeney

Neiron Ball

Shilique Calhoun

James Cowser

Daren Bates

Korey Toomer

Bubble watch

RB Roy Helu Jr

TE Gabe Holmes

OL Matt McCants

Practice squad (8/10)

RB Jalen Richard

WR Max McCaffrey

WR Jaydon Mickens

OL Denver Kirkland

OL Oni Omoile

DT Darius Latham

DE Greg Townsend Jr

LB Cory James