The Oakland Raiders have made improving the linebacker position a priority the past two seasons. The have added all new pieces in that time and the team hopes to start seeing the dividends this season. With all the additions, the Raiders have built a very interesting group of linebackers that should be the strength of the defense in 2014.
The most important addition to the linebacker position is 2014 first-round pick Khalil Mack. The Raiders were giddy when Mack dropped to them in the NFL Draft and gladly selected him. He is going to spend the majority of training camp learning and moving around to different positions on the field to maximize his value. As long as Mack makes some strides in training camp, he is penciled in to start at the strong-side linebacker spot for the Raiders. He will get serious reps in camp to help him grow. In return the Raiders expect big things from the rookie in 2014.
With Mack taking over the strong-side spot, Sio Moore will be in competition with Kevin Burnett for the weak-side linebacker position. Burnett started at that spot last season and performed well. He finished second on the team with 105 tackles and led the team with 13 tackles for loss. Despite Burnett missing some voluntary workouts this offseason, head coach Dennis Allen expects him to be in the competition for a starting spot.
Sio Moore came on extremely well in his rookie season for the Raiders. He showed his pass rushing skills, recording 4.5 sacks last season. With the addition of Mack, Moore will not be playing the strong-side linebacker position like he did in 2013. Instead, he is learning the other linebacker positions so he can be used effectively in different spots. The Raiders are going to use Mack all over the field so when he moves around, Moore will fill in as the strong-side backer. Training camp and preseason will be extremely important for Moore to become comfortable playing different linebacker positions and still maintaining his skills that shined last year.
The Raiders have made a commitment to find players who possess versatility and no position shows that more than linebacker. Moore, Mack, and Burnett have the ability to move to all three linebacker positions. In training camp, the Raiders coaching staff will be tasked to find out how to use these talented linebackers to maximize effectiveness. All three of these players will see significant playing time in 2014. In part two, we will discuss the depth options the Raiders have at outside linebacker and which players are fighting for roster spots in training camp.
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Tags: Dennis Allen, Football, Kevin Burnett, Khalil Mack, linebackers, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, Sio Moore, training camp