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Raiders had ‘big designs’ for Obi Melifonwu this season, excited to get rookie safety back vs Dolphins

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Obi Melifonwu will now commence in preparing for the ‘big role’ the Raiders have planned for him.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this week the Raiders will have their second round rookie safety take the field for a regular season game. Obi Melifonwu had spent the first 8 games of the season on injured reserve. He will be activated probably Saturday after having practiced the past two weeks.

“Yeah, yeah, we think we’ll get him up,” Head coach Jack Del Rio said of Melifonwu Friday. “He’s had a good week and he’s a versatile guy. A guy we had big designs for before he suffered the injury. So he’s back full strength and we look forward to having him.”

The big plans the Raiders had for Melifonwu came to light not long after he became their pick at 56 overall. Specifically, the 6-4, 224-pounder was to be used as the ‘Money backer’ which is a sort of hybrid safety/linebacker. In short, Melifonwu was to be the guy tasked with stopping the bleeding the Raiders have suffered with regard to their inability to cover the tight end.

“He’s a long, strong, good-looking athlete,” said defensive coordinator, Ken Norton Jr Thursday. “Really excited about him. We were really excited about him on draft day. Really looking forward to seeing him run and use his speed and his size. He matches up well with the tight ends we have to face in this league. It’s just a matter of getting him on the field and playing.”

Those plans were upended by his injury and it would be difficult to simply just pick up where they left off in the middle of the season.

“We obviously had a big role for him prior to his injury and we can’t just put that big role back on him right away,” Head coach Jack Del Rio said last week. “We’ll have to work him into it. That’s strategy kind of stuff, but we’ll be excited to get him back involved.”

The Raiders will face the Dolphins this Sunday and hope to have Karl Joseph back from his groin injury after Joseph missed last week’s game in Buffalo and was replaced by seventh round rookie Shalom Luani to mixed results.

Melifonwu is a very different type of safety to Luani. And it’s not just the 5-inch, 40-pound physical difference. Luani can roam the deep part of the field as a free safety enforcer. Melifonwu can patrol the field covering tight ends and taking on blockers in the run game. I likened his addition to the Raiders completing their plans for ‘Legion of Boom 2.0

Even if Melifonwu doesn’t jump into the role the Raiders had for him this week, they then have a bye week in which to prepare for the Patriots and get him ready to face arguably the top tight end in the league in Rob Gronkowski.