Starters: Cory James, Tyrell Adams
Depth: Jelani Jenkins, Marquel Lee, Ben Heeney, Xavier Woodson-Luster, Najee Harris, Nicholas Morrow
Departures: Malcolm Smith, Perry Riley Jr, Daren Bates, Neiron Ball
Additions: Jelani Jenkins, Marquel Lee (D-5)
This offseason it has been two second-year linebackers Cory James and Tyrell Adams who have led things off. How long that lasts is hard to say at this point.
Most likely the reason James and Adams were running with the first team was due to the fact that, believe it or not, they were the most veteran inside linebackers healthy to start offseason practices. That’s right, with a total of 22 games between them (mostly on special teams), no other healthy linebacker had more experience in the Raiders’ defensive scheme than they did.
The only stability they had last year came with the addition of Perry Riley Jr, who was not re-signed and remains unsigned by any team. He came onboard after two miserable starts by Ben Heeney and two lackluster starts from Cory James.
Jenkins joined the Raiders this offseason on a one-year deal. He was the only defensive free agent the team added. The former 4th round linebacker comes over after four seasons with the Dolphins. His 2016 season was shortened by a knee injury. He looks to play weak inside linebacker, hoping to replace the departed Malcolm Smith.
With still a glaring need in the middle, it seemed the Raiders might make the position a priority in the draft. They didn’t select a middle linebacker until the 5th round when they grabbed Wake Forest’s Marquel Lee.
The trio of Harris, Woodson-Luster, and Morrow were all added as undrafted free agents this offseason. Harris made the team after a tryout.
What was a state of confusion heading into last season is still an entirely unsettled position. So many questions remain. Will they ultimately bring back Perry Riley? Someone else? Is Marquel Lee the answer as a fifth rounder? If so, will he start right away? Are James and Adams just placeholders until perhaps Lee and Jenkins get up to speed or until they sign someone else? Or is it their job to lose? Do the Raiders even respect this position or do they just think they can plug in anyone? They have three roster spots open and at least one of them, if not two, should damn well be a linebacker.
What condition do you think the Raiders inside linebacker position is in?
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