One of the more weird things about the Raiders in the past couple years has been the lack of a solid starting inside linebacker. The reason it’s weird is because they have a GM, head coach, and Defensive coordinator who were all once inside linebacker at the NFL level. So, it seems like they would put more emphasis on it.
It turns out it’s the opposite. And I think we’re beginning to see why.
It’s their thinking that their collective superior eye for spotting and developing talent means they don’t have to bring in a finished product that everyone else sees is great.
“That’s what we do. We love coaching and I’ve been around a lot of really good football players and they all start somewhere,” said Ken Norton Jr. “They’re all rookies at some point. They all don’t have any experience at some point and that’s when you get a chance to put your hands on them. Coach them, teach them and really help them through the developmental process. The great ones all start somewhere, they just don’t’ show up great. You have to put your hands on them and really teach them, take your time with them. What we have, we’re very, very happy with.”
As proof, Ken Norton Jr name dropped a few of the linebacker talents who have been under his tutelage over the years and excelled.
“My job at this point is to bring them to me and I’ll coach them,” Norton continued. “I’ve coached Clay Matthews as a walk-on at USC. Bobby Wagner was a second-round pick. KJ Wright was a fourth-round pick. It doesn’t matter the uncertainty. It doesn’t matter the age or what round they’ve been picked. Just give me someone who loves ball, who’s hungry, who has the right stuff. I will coach the heck out of them.”
Of those players he mentioned, all were drafted in the first four rounds. Of his young original linebackers, he has a sixth rounder (Cory James), a fifth rounder (Ben Heeney), a fifth round rookie (Marquel Lee), and an undrafted guy (Tyrell Adams).
The hope is Lee can outplay his fifth round draft status. That was the hope with James last year and Heeney the year before. With only the signing of Jelani Jenkins as the other move made to try and upgrade the position, they are still hoping one of these low round picks will show out and prove their approach correct.