If there is one position on the roster that has been most maligned this season, it’s at linebacker. Vontaze Burfict was brought in to fix the issues and ‘stir the drink,’ as head coach Jon Gruden said at his opening presser, but he was lost to a 12-game suspension. With Marquel Lee has battling injury all season before finally being placed on IR last week, Nicholas Morrow and Tahir Whitehead are left as the only familiar faces week to week.
Mike Mayock and Gruden scoured practice squads across the league and searched through the free agent list with a fine tooth comb, which led to the signing of various linebackers during the season. Some of the names include Dakota Allen, Justin Phillips, Quentin Poling, Brandon Marshall, Will Compton, Preston Brown, and the latest addition Ukeme Eligwe.
Of all the names, only one man has been able to stick around and make an impact.
“Will Compton, you know he had like 12 or 13 tackles,” Gruden said. “He’s wearing the green dot, which means he’s the man communicating with Guenther, making adjustments, making the calls, alerts, checking out of coverages and into blitzes and visa versa.”
Sounds like a lot to put on a guys plate when he was only just signed on October 30th after being released in September from the New Orleans Saints via injury settlement. Three weeks ago, Compton was inserted into the starting lineup against the Tennessee Titans, playing 16 snaps as the middle linebacker in the Raiders 4-3 base alignment. Across the following two weeks, he’s seen his role increase dramatically, playing in 100 percent of the defensive snaps while booting Morrow from his starting spot.
During that time, the defense has given up 18.5 points per game, down from the 28.1 allowed in weeks 1 through 13.
While the unit has played better as a whole, Compton is a major reason for the improvement. He has led the team in tackles in back to back weeks with 9 and 12, proving worthy of his newfound responsibilities.
His head coach has taken notice.
“He’s got a great demeanor about him, very poised, very calm. I went out there on the field to check on one of our players and he got on my case for not smiling, for not having a good time.
“He’s a weird dude man, he loves football, and that’s why he fits in here. He’s really made some plays and made an impact here at a position where we really needed it.”
Compton may not be the long term fix at linebacker, but for now he has given the position the stability it has been looking for all year. If he is willing to re-sign on a modest contract for next season, he’ll be moving to Las Vegas quite soon.