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Raiders countdown to kickoff: 54 is Greg Biekert appreciation day

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The past few days, the countdown articles have featured players who are currently vying for the open middle linebacker spot on the team — 55 Marquel Lee, 56 Xavier Woodson-Luster, 57 Cory James, and 58 Tyrell Adams. It’s enough to make you yearn for the days when there was a steady middle linebacker in Oakland.

With 54 days now until the 2017 season, and no current player wearing that number, it’s the perfect time to remember back to a time when the Raiders’ middle linebacker was in good hands for a good long while. And it’s been a bad long while since that was the case.

Who wore it best: LB Greg Biekert (1993-2001)

One of the best Raiders middle linebackers ever and arguably the smartest. He was selected in the 7th round of the 1993 draft out of Colorado and appeared in all 16 games as a rookie. By his second season, he took over as the full time starter and didn’t let go of it.

For eight seasons from 1994 to 2001, he was the Raiders everyday starting middle linebacker. Over those eight seasons, he averaged 113 combined tackles and six times led the team in tackles.

His final game in a Raiders uniform was the infamous Tuck Rule Snow Job game in New England. Most people know it was Charles Woodson to forced the fumble, but it was Greg Biekert who recovered it. Only to see it wiped away.

Biekert would return to the Raiders in 2010 as an assistant linebackers coach under Tom Cable and was promoted to linebackers coach under Hue Jackson in 2011.

It was that 2011 season Biekert was faced with the challenge of trying to get Rolando McClain to live up to his immense potential. It was a former 7th rounder in Biekert who outplayed his draft position, trying to get a former 8th overall pick to get his act together. Hue Jackson didn’t help matters when he was unwilling to punish McClain for the incident in which he assaulted a man and fired a gun by the side of his head.

McClain should have acted as a reminder of how important it is to have a smart, steady, leader at the middle linebacker spot. He had replaced Kirk Morrison, who had many of those qualities over his five seasons as the starter, but who didn’t last much longer in the NFL after the Raiders traded him away.

Is there another Greg Biekert in the Raiders’ future? If their defense is ever going to be championship quality, there may need to be.