Starters: Tahir Whitehead, Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Marshall
Backups: Nicholas Morrow, Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda, Kyle Wilber, Te’von Coney
The revolving door that is middle linebacker has a new body. He is the oft suspended, notorious dirty player Vontaze Burfict. A season after Paul Guenther left Cincinnati to come to Oakland, the Bengals parted ways with Burfict. And the coach and player instantly knew they wanted a reunion in Silver & Black, making for the latest former Guenther defender to join him.
The dirty plays aside, Burfict can be a very good player. You also won’t find a person on the planet more familiar with Guenther’s defense than he is after spending 7 years with Guenther first as his linebackers coach and then as his defensive coordinator.
Burfict joins incumbent starting linebacker Tahir Whitehead. No one had more snaps for the Raiders defense than Whitehead who was on the field for 99.7% of the defensive snaps. Whitehead began in the middle and moved to strong side linebacker. Though he easily led the team with 126 combined tackles (89 solo), he was often a liability in both coverage and against the run. They like Whitehead a lot and even made him their ambassador to England recently.
The third starting spot is most likely going to Brandon Marshall who was cut by the Broncos this offseason, mostly for cap reasons, but also because he started just 7 of the 11 games in which he appeared last season. He has been injured so he hasn’t been a full participant in practice this offseason. They may or may not ease him in once camp starts.
The next best option at the weakside spot is Nicholas Morrow the former undrafted free agent has had to prove himself to two different coaching staffs in two years. Just as he did as a rookie, he worked his way into a starting role late in the season and proved he belongs. He’s also a hell of a special teams player.
There will be a battle for playing time behind the three starters. Marquel Lee would figure to have the advantage as a former 5th round pick, but he has had the opposite situation to Morrow his first two seasons. Each time he was looked to a lot early only to see his snaps dwindle as the season went on.
Undrafted rookie Jason Cabinda was getting equal snaps to Lee late in the season and will battle with him again.
Despite what was clearly a need at linebacker, the team used no draft picks at the position. Though they did sign undrafted free agent Te’Von Coney who many had projected as an early day three draft prospect.
Wilber is mostly a special teams player who will see a few snaps on defense from time to time.
Burfict and Marshall were both cut by their former teams and Whitehead was not great despite how much the Raiders seem to love him. Sure, the two new additions could work out great. And Whitehead could improve in his second year in Guenther’s system. A lot of things could happen. One thing is for sure, the Raiders once again didn’t make the position a priority with no splash free agent signing and no draft pick used, let alone a somewhat high draft pick. In that regard, ruling it ‘Unstable’ may be generous.
What condition do you think the linebacker position is in for the Raiders?
This poll is closed