One of the major hallmarks of the first several weeks of Jon Gruden’s second stint as Raiders coach was that he was playing aged veterans in key spots on the team, particularly on defense. That strategy has largely gone by the wayside later on in the year, partly due to injuries and partly because it’s time to see what the young players can do.
An area where the Raiders have gone extremely young as at the middle linebacker spot, where Nicholas Morrow and Jason Cabinda are now getting loads of playing time. However, both were undrafted and Cabinda is a rookie while Morrow is a second-year player in a new defense. With that comes some growing pains, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther addressed his pair of young MLBs.
“I think [Jason] Cabinda has done a pretty good job in the base. He had a couple errors in the ball game the other day which we got to get cleaned up. [Nicholas] Morrow, he’s a guy that has been playing a lot of snaps in both lead downs on three receiver sets and nickel. He’s been a good cover guy for us. Same thing, again, we are just trying to cut back on the errors that those two guys are having. The more snaps you have, the better chance you have of being a little bit off here or there, so we just got to make sure that each week they continue to make the corrections and understand the big picture,” said Guenther.
Cabinda was one of the more solid Raiders players during the preseason, anchoring the defense from the MLB spot after having done the same at Penn State. In limited time this season, Cabinda has 19 total tackles. Morrow is very athletic and has a propensity for big plays and is highly effective on blitzes. He has played in every game this year and has 33 tackles and a sack. Both of them are still developing and their ceiling has yet to be realized. However, it’s still unusual to have two undrafted players at a position of such importance.
The Raiders could find themselves in a position to take a premier MLB in the draft next year after essentially ignoring the position early in the draft since drafting Rolando McClain, and the play of these two guys over the next two weeks could determine how much of a priority the team places on that position.