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Robert Spillane impressive in Raiders’ debut

Veteran linebacker shows tackling machine tendency, but more importantly, communicator on defense

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos
Linebacker Robert Spillane showcased his ability as a tackling machine type, but more importantly, the veteran communicated well on defense getting his teammates in position to make plays.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Robert Spillane was one of the Las Vegas Raiders’ initial free agents when the signing period opened back on March 15. And after the veteran linebacker’s season-opening performance, it’s easy to see why the Silver & Black made making him a Raider an early priority.

The 27-year-old Western Michigan product didn’t come off the field and was the only Raiders linebacker to play in all 64 of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps in the team’s 17-16 Week 1 win over the host Denver Broncos this past Sunday. Playing in 100 percent of the defensive snaps showcases just how vital he is to the Raiders defense and the high expectations the team placed upon him.

Spillane backed up that belief by showcasing his tackling machine tendencies — seven total tackles and a stop for loss — and quick diagnostic skills, as evidenced by an impactful tackle for a loss late in the first quarter. That play in particular saw the linebacker attack the line of scrimmage, met Broncos guard Lloyd Cushenberry III head on, toss him aside, and drop running back Javonte Williams for a two-yard loss.

All that despite being listed as an outside linebacker by the team after being projected to be starting in the middle. Divine Deablo (nine total tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection on 60 snaps (94 percent of total defensive snaps) earned that distinction and is listed as such on the Raiders’ official depth chart.

“Yeah a lot to improve on but I love my guys they have my back I have their back and we’re just going to keep sticking together and playing playing hard,” Spillane said during post game media availability after Sunday’s win. “Manufacture victories no matter how it gets done we just got to get the job done at the end of the day a win as a win is a win so we came out and we executed we did what we wanted to do to walk out of the stadium with the W.”

What stood out beyond Spillane’s ability to read and arrive quickly with to make the tackle is his ability to ensure his teammates are the same page. His ability to communicate and get fellow defenders in the right position or point out where to go and what to do was impressive. Take a look at this play below:

Spillane feigned blitz to see how the Broncos offense would adjust and after seeing the offensive line point him out, Spillane looked to his right and gave direction to nickel cornerback Nate Hobbs. Hobbs was the one who blitzed — was unblocked — and knifed through to make a tackle for loss, as our Matt Holder pointed out.

This is of of particular importance for the Raiders as last season was rife with disconnect and miscommunication on defense. Getting everyone on the same page and knowing their assignments is crucial. And while there were breakdowns in Week 1 — which is to be expected — Las Vegas rose to the occasion — on both defense and offense — when they needed it most to close out the game in Denver and walk away 1-0.

“That’s our jobs. We go out there every time on the field expecting to get off without letting up points so it’s our job to find a way no matter what circumstance we’re in,” Spillane noted. “Every time I looked at my teammates eyes I saw a fire and a passion and a willingness to win so as long as we stick together and keep trusting ourselves good things are going to happen.”

The showing Spillane and the Raiders defense had in the season opener was impressive, but now the team takes on another challenge: Consistency. Las Vegas heads to New York to go toe-to-toe with the Buffalo Bills this coming Sunday. And the Bills are a team that’s seething from an embarrassing loss to the Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets on Monday Night Football. Spillane must continue to be a sure tackler at the point of attack and communicating well against a Josh Allen-powered Buffalo offense.

“Leverage, pursuit, effort to the ball, we can’t have any loafs because if we do that, now you’re not helping your teammates,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said on what he needs out of his defense against the Bills, during his press conference on Wednesday. “So, we’re going to have to use our help. We’re going to have to be smart when he has the ball — really all their guys. I mean honestly, you put the ball in anybody’s hands on this football team, they can make yards with it when they have it.”