Oakland Raiders Linebacker Watch: Adjustments

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Oakland Raiders middle linebacker NaVorro
Nov 5, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) makes a catch in front of Oakland Raiders middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

At the mid-way point of a disappointing year the Raiders must elevate their overall level of play. One unit that slowly trends up, albeit from the absolute bottom, are the linebackers. Entering the season, it was clear that the unit would struggle, and that played out almost right away. However, with a key addition in the middle, the unit greatly improved. Here are a few more adjustments that each linebacker starter can make to help get the unit over the top.

Bruce Irvin

Much of RaiderNation remains tired of Bruce Irvin at the moment figuring him as over-pay by Reggie McKenzie. While the team fails to generate very many sacks, or hurries, Irvin’s tasks remains playing the run. He has a knack for making the big play, yet struggles to keep focus. The veteran must focus. When he can channel that emotion, the splash plays he generated last season become commonplace.

NaVorro Bowman

Bowman, in many ways was the exact kind of player the Raiders hoped to score in free agency. He is no longer the sideline to sideline athlete he once was, but he can see plays coming a mile away. Part of his adjustment at this stage of his career is recognizing that he is not the athlete he once was. This can be hard for any athlete. However, with his veteran savvy, Bowman will alter his positioning. Specifically with Karl Joseph’s closing speed, I would expect for Bowman to split the field with the young safety to try and limit crossing routes and running lanes.

Nicholas Morrow / Cory James

For the two young linebackers who have been mainstays in the middle and on the weakside, the single most important development will be learning teammate location. Too often, the young guys drift completely out of position, because they aren’t sure of assignments. This problem surfaces at the ends of games and both players have been responsible for freeing a back or tight end. Now, some of the falls on the DBs. They continue to struggle this season. In addition, play diagnoses continues to bite them.

With a few more adjustments, the much maligned Oakland Raider linebacker corps can go from poor to average. As the offense begins to wake  from its season-long snooze, that may be enough to keep games closer.


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  • Eric Kench

    The best way to fix the Raider linebacker corps is for Khalil Mack to go back to playing the SAM. But this could only happen if Aldon Smith returns or if Calhoun develops in to the player we all thought he would become when he was drafted. Then Irvin would move over play the WILL which IMO would be well suited for him because he is the fastest most athletic linebacker on the roster.