287

Camp analysis: Linebackers

Seventh in a series of posts analyzing Raiders position groups with players reporting for training camp Tuesday:

Projected starters: WLB Thomas Howard, MLB Kirk Morrison, SLB Jon Alston. Backups: Ricky Brown, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Slade Norris, David Nixon, Sam Williams, Chris O’Neill.

Howard might be the fastest player at his position in the NFL. Morrison has been the Raiders leading tackler in each of the last three years. They rarely leave the field and are fan favorites. What’s difficult to determine is how much responsiblity they, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Raiders linebackers, bear in making one Oakland one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run. Until Oakland can hold teams under 4 yards per carry and make it difficult for opposing rushers to gain 100 yards, Raiders linebackers can’t be taken seriously and talk of Pro Bowl consideration is laughable. It’s not all their fault, because the Oakland defensive line doesn’t consistently win the line of scrimmage battle. But it’s also true Raiders linebackers have had trouble shedding blocks and haven’t been the best at fitting gaps. Two intriguing newcomers are Norris and Nixon, who consistently ran with the second team during minicamps and OTAs (Norris on the strong side, Nixon on the weak side). Ekejiuba is exclusively a special teams player. O’Neill was moved from tight end to middle linebacker at the request of Al Davis and Tom Cable. Williams, one of the nicer guys you’ll ever meet, never worked out as the classic SAM linebacker and if he makes the roster as a special teams player would be in his sixth year on scholarship.

The key battle: Alston vs. Brown. Alston went from a low of 211 pounds last season to 232 pounds, looking much thicker around the neck and shoulders without any apparent loss of speed. That’s still a tad undersized for a strong side linebacker. Not sure what to make of moving Brown to the middle for the offseason, given that he opened last season as the strong side starter. But since he was tendered at $1.7 million, he’s sticking around.

What I think: The Raiders need a strong, nasty run-stopping presence on their linebacking crew that hasn’t existed for far too long _ probably since Bill Romanowski’s last good year in 2002. Like the defensive line, the upgrades will have to come from a new coaching staff _ coordinator Jon Marshall and new linebackers coach Mike Haluchak. We can assume Haluchak knows something about the position. He’s been an NFL assistant for 23 years and has coached nothing but linebackers.

What could go wrong: The song remains the same and opposing runners continually find open gaps and creases in the defense.

  • Share/Bookmark

Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • priesttj

    Dwaine Board will be very important to improvement of the Dline.

    I was talking to a DT yesterday and he indicated how hard Board was emphasizing hand placement and pad level. Dwaine Board is a great teacher and I’m hoping his pupils are listening and learning.

  • AZ Raider2

    I’m just here serving up kool-aid to kick the season off!

    1st ranked pass defense!

    17th Ranked run defense!

    Russell throws 3000+ yards!

    Schilens 1000 yards!

    Miller to the Probowl!

    RAIDER ON!

  • lefty12

    back to KM-imo,if the DEs do their job against the run instead of running themselves out of and past the play,KM will be fine.while others seem more concerned about the DTs,the DEs concern me more.

  • Mistabrown

    Priest thats a great story I have a tear in my eye..

    Didnt the players say something like that about the last D-line coach ? And the one before….and the one before that…etc etc

    You get the picture right Priest? Players say glowing things about their coach even if its Rob Ryan or Millard, Board, Brown

  • http://RAIDERS Oakglenn

    Actually my cat is smarter than you missedabrain. Much smarter. Much, much smarter.

  • Mistabrown

    My work is done here.

    g’night brain deads

  • jhill

    Actually Lefty,

    I think KM should do a better job of filling those inside gaps. RBs should be cutting right back into KM, but he is late with his reads, so there is always a lineman on him. He needs to recognize the play and fill that inside gap. Even if he is blocked in that gap, it’s better than him not even being there.

  • priesttj

    Mistabrown, this was a private conversation on the phone. Why would he lie. I was asking about Russell’s weight and some other issues then mentioned that I knew Board from his 49er days. He had no reason to be complimentary to him especially to me.

  • lefty12

    Priest,good point.i can’t remember how many times i’ve heard commentators mention that once players reach the pros the teaching stops.sometimes the difference between an avg. player and a star player is the extra things he was taught.i love the idea that Cable went out and brought in a bunch of teachers as asst. coaches.

  • priesttj

    Kirk definitely needs to react more instinctively. True, if he can’t stack and shed at least stack the play.

  • lefty12

    Jhill,that is what i’m getting at.the game is slowing down for him,so instead of being a tad late,he should start to be there either early or on time.we shall see,but what he said made sense.let’s hope he is finally”getting it”.

  • AZ Raider2

    WTF?

    Ok…. Good evening gents.

  • jhill

    I hear ya Lefty, but Kirk just needs to be more disciplined. Be where he is supposed to be and let the play come to him. Sometimes I think he was guilty of trying to do too much, thus ending up out of position. I don’t think it’s a lack of talent thing, so we’ll see.

  • priesttj

    Missed Raider O tonight. But this was fun guy’s

    Adios!! Jhill, Left, AZ and Oak and all the rest disagreements aside.

  • lefty12

    i heard Big Ben Davidson interviewed not long ago and he talked about how the attitude they used to have on def.he was saying that you didn’t want to make a mistake because you felt you let the other guys down,that you felt like you had to apologize for fu(king up.it would be nice to see that kind of team attitude again.from what i’ve heard and read,it seems the new coaching staff is trying to instill that into the players again.let’s hope so.

  • lefty12

    later my Raider friend.

  • HayesDaze37

    The arguments about whether or not the Raiders blitz is just stupid…

    The Raiders blitz enough…they do not (did not) disguise what they are going to do WELL enough, whether or not they blitz. There are many looks to the same coverages, but nobody was fooled — and RR thinks just because of his last name, OC’s are going to worry about his anemic Defense.

    Kirk Morrison had the 5th-most LB tackles in the NFL last year (135). By comparison, Ray Lewis had the 13th-most (117). You would think the guy on one of the most highly-regarded Defenses in NFL history would have had more tackles.

    Here’s where Ray Lewis REALLY stands apart from Kirk, though: Lewis had 13 passes defended last year, with 3-picks. Morrison had 2 defended and 1-pick. That’s NOT the kind of productivity we need from the middle of our Defense.

    John Marshall needs to get the RESULTS from Kirk Morrison that we should expect by now. All those tackles are a hollow stat, unless they are timely and at the correct spot.

    Kirk’s a great natural athlete who needs to learn how to play (efficient and effective) MLB in the NFL — he and Howard relying too much on their athletic ability, and not enough on BASICS (RR!!) has done nothing but slow this Defense’s development for years.

    Marshall and Haluchak must get results!

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Playoff Appearances by Team in the 20 years since Free Agency in 1989.

    Pittsburgh 13
    Philadelphia 12
    Minnesota 11
    San Francisco 11
    Tennessee 11
    Green Bay 11
    Indianapolis 11
    Dallas 11
    New England 10
    New York Giants 10
    Denver 10
    Miami 10
    Kansas City 9
    Buffalo 9
    San Diego 7
    Tampa Bay 7
    Oakland 6
    Seattle 6
    New York Jets 6
    St Louis 6
    Chicago 6
    Atlanta 6
    Detroit 6
    Washington 6
    New Orleans 5
    Cleveland 3
    Arizona 2
    Cincinnati 1
    _________________________
    This alone says you have to question organizational expertise.

  • http://i288.photobucket.com/albums/ll180/floresrd508/mcfaddenball.jpg SouthTexasRaider

    whats up brothers…

  • NoMoreFargas

    What’s up fellas!

    GO RAIDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • CantstandtheHaters

    Noel, San Diego

    Who do you think are the teams most likely to make a turnaround this year?

    Willie McGinest, Linebacker
    Minnesota, if they get Brett, could make a turnaround. The Jets could be very good. Chicago is going to be pretty good. They got a better quarterback. The Patriots are going to be back in contention because Tom is back.

    I think the Raiders, believe it or not, are going to be a lot better. They have a good RB in place. JaMarcus Russell hopefully is a lot more comfortable.

    —————

    mhm, thats rite, believe it or leave it haters muhaaha

  • CantstandtheHaters

    ZIMMY, CALI

    DO YOU THINK KIRK MORRISON FROM THE RAIDERS HAS THE POTENTIAL OF BEING THE BEST LB IN THE LEAGUE?

    Steve Wyche, NFL.com
    Zimmy, Morrison is a stud. Unfortunately for him, he won’t get the credit he deserves because he plays on losing team. Opposing players tell me that he is good, but guys like Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Jon Beason, Bradie James and others tend to get more love.
    ————
    fortunatly for him, we will be winning team very soon. noone believed the nation when thy were telling the world how good Aso was to until it was evident. now its a fact everywhere.

    KM is solid. he will only get better cause he takes care of his body. he hasnt peaked yet. leave him alone until you find someone clearly better.

  • hwnrdr

    Good Morning Nation!!!
    I haven’t had time to read anything since I came back to Cali. Anything new and interesting?

  • CantstandtheHaters

    Caroline, PA

    Are you crazy?? Oakland taking the AFC West and San Diego not returning to the playoffs? That does not make any sense.

    Gil Brandt, NFL.com
    Hi Caroline. I just think Oakland is my sleeper/surprise team for this year. That might be against the grain, but I don’t see San Diego winning the division. If they go 8-8 again, as they did last year, they will not win the division. We’ll get a good idea in Week 1 when these teams meet in the second game of the Monday night doubleheader.

    ———-

    i cant wait for the chockers to get demolished, if not the first then the second game but their winning streak next that will end this year, markit down you haters. as you guys obviously love to bring stink up from the past.

  • DIRT-LOT FOOTBALL

    GOOD MORNING SPORT’S FAN’S,HWNDR,WHERE U BEEN , DID U BUY YOURSELF AN ISLAND SOMEWHERE AND MDVE

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    GM all. Looks like Southwick will have to fill in at RG until Robert gets back…

  • RaiderRockstar

    You people (and RaiderRockstar)…

    Have a good weekend!

    ***

    LOL. thanks BSJ. I did have a great weekend :)

  • RaiderRockstar

    73rdraider Says (Friday):

    Danny Southwick is so good that all thirty two NFL teams passed him over in the draft. Is Danny Southwick going to be the savior of the Raiders? Who that is a Raider fan would say we are going to the playoffs if Danny Southwick was our Quarterback? Who around the league has made that statement? Any Coaches or players, or the media perhaps? Has Danny Southwick even muttered those words?No, he is just happy to be on a NFL roster.

    ***

    I feel sorry for this kid. get an education!

    http://www.dannysouthwick.com

  • RaiderRockstar

    good morning Dirt Lot, Hwnrdr, CSTH …

  • DIRT-LOT FOOTBALL

    ROCKSTAR, BSJ, GOOD DAY..

  • hwnrdr

    LOL Dirt Lot…I wish I could afford an Island…No, I flew back to Cali on a Friday night “red-eye” flight, arrived Saturday morning. Now, back to work…sniff, sniff…
    Good morning Rockstar, Dirt Lot, BSJ…

  • SILVRnBLKfeathers

    Waz crackin Raider Nation!
    Our LB crew will be the best in the league once our D-Line can stop the run. Come on now! Really! The fasted LB’s with Morrison ranked #3 in the league in tackles as a LB! And doing it with the one of the worst D’s!

    If we can get a combination of our Offense running the clock and our Defense able to control the run… to me that’s all we need to take the division and make the playoffs!

    Win, Lose or Tie! RAIDERS TILL I DIE!

  • RaiderRockstar

    What could go wrong: Burgess can’t stay healthy, Kelly joins Javon Walker, Gibril Wilson and DeAngelo Hall as a flop in the spending spree of 2008 and Ellis begins to show his age.

    ***

    We’ve got Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy & Greyson Gunheim if Burgess & Ellis are done. We already know that Jay Richardson is garbage. If Kelly proves to be a flop I’ll be surprised. It’s possible, so it’s a good thing Sands is motivated and we’ll have an actual 4th DT in the rotation (Joseph or Boschetti) who isn’t named Fred Wakefield! Let’s hope they don’t ask Warren to play hurt this season either. In 2 years as a Raider, he’s had an injured neck, knee & quadriceps

  • RaiderRockstar

    good morning feathers.

    welcome back Hwnrdr! we’re not bitter anymore, now that you’re back into the grind (routine) haha

    hope you enjoyed the R & R !!!

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 6:29 am
    73rdraider Says (Friday):

    Danny Southwick is so good that all thirty two NFL teams passed him over in the draft. Is Danny Southwick going to be the savior of the Raiders? Who that is a Raider fan would say we are going to the playoffs if Danny Southwick was our Quarterback? Who around the league has made that statement? Any Coaches or players, or the media perhaps? Has Danny Southwick even muttered those words?No, he is just happy to be on a NFL roster.

    ***

    I feel sorry for this kid. get an education!

    http://www.dannysouthwick.com

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Danny’s future is so bright he’s already got haters!

  • DIRT-LOT FOOTBALL

    OPENING NIGHT AGAINST SAN DIEDGO IS HUGE, I WILL JUST HATE 2 C THIS BLOG IF THE RAIDER’S SHOULD LOSE BY DBL-DIGIT’S.

  • RaiderRockstar

    OPENING NIGHT AGAINST SAN DIEDGO IS HUGE, I WILL JUST HATE 2 C THIS BLOG IF THE RAIDER’S SHOULD LOSE BY DBL-DIGIT’S.

    ***

    exactly. start Southwick!

  • RaiderRockstar

    I’m still looking forward to seeing BSJ in the black hole wearing a Walrus costume! hahaha

  • RaiderRockstar

    so who is going to fill in for Robert Gallery?

    -Chris Morris
    -Paul McQuistan
    -Marcus Johnson
    -Jonathan Compas

  • RaiderRockstar

    can James Marten, Mark Wilson or Erik Pears play guard ???

  • RaiderRockstar

    DarthPirate Says:

    He will be fine when it comes to getting ready for the season. An appendectomy is not that huge of a deal in terms of recovery time these days.

    ***

    tell that to Erik Pears! missed the entire 2008 season.

  • hwnrdr

    Thanks Rockstar…yes I did!

  • SILVRnBLKfeathers

    Morning Rockstar!

    Maybe Paul McQuistan… wasn’t he like Gallery, couldn’t perform at LT? Maybe he can produce at LG like Gallery did.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Projected starter: SLB Jon Alston
    Backup: Ricky Brown

    The key battle: Alston vs. Brown. Alston went from a low of 211 pounds last season to 232 pounds, looking much thicker around the neck and shoulders without any apparent loss of speed. That’s still a tad undersized for a strong side linebacker. Not sure what to make of moving Brown to the middle for the offseason, given that he opened last season as the strong side starter. But since he was tendered at $1.7 million, he’s sticking around.

    ***

    come on Jerry! When asked about Alston this offseason Cable said “he’ll make a solid 3rd down LB”

    When asked why he moved from SLB to MLB this offseason Ricky Brown said the staff told him “we already know you can play SLB. we’re gonna try you at MLB”

    We need a backup for Morrison at MLB. Nobody wants to see Chris O’Neill in there if Morrison gets injured. Frantz Joseph was cut and Isaiah Ekejiuba was resigned for special teams purposes. Never played a down on defense to date.

    you can do better Jerry. you are the Michael Huff of Raider Reporters. loaded with potential

  • RaiderRockstar

    Maybe Paul McQuistan… wasn’t he like Gallery, couldn’t perform at LT? Maybe he can produce at LG like Gallery did.

    ***

    McQ played well at RT in 2007. I’ve never seen him play guard, but he’s listed as a guard on the Raiders roster. He played backup LT & LG before getting injured last offseason. I’m not sure what to think of him to be honest. Seems like a blue collar/mauler type. Not excellent technique or footwork, just likes to crash into somebody amd take them out of the play.

    If they don’t move Barnes to RT, electing to go with Green (please no!) or Pears instead, I think they’ll have him at LG ala Gallery. Shouldn’t be such a difficult transition to make on a temporary basis

  • Charlie

    RR

    Good Morning.
    Not sure I agree with everything you say on 233.
    I think our DE spots are upgraded over last year. Burgess is injury prone and that is a wild card.

    The biggest concern is at DT.

    I know Warren played hurt last year but his entire career has been up and down. From what I have seen with the Raiders he gets blown off the ball by good Olines and then a week later makes plays against KC.
    On most NFL teams he is number four in a four man rotation.

    I for one do not think Sands makes it through camp.
    It is tough to justify a roster spot to a guy that is terribly out of shape and has to be removed after two consecutive snaps. I think Joseph gets cut as well.

    I know nothing about Boschetti other than I hear he works hard and is cut in the mold of many of the guys Cable is bringing in.

    Kelly is the key to repectability and I offer no prediction. It would be better if someone would show up beside him.

    My bet is we see if we can pick someone up after final cuts at DT or we move Richardson inside.

    I can not see Marshall going in with the same DT unit we finished last year with.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    I think McQuistan should be tried at LG. Didn’t Cable say he was a left side player?

  • AZ Raider

    Everyone who was in the starting rotation last year will make the team again this year. We did nothing in the draft or free agency to add depth to the interior D-line. A lost cause to debate… 2010 is for the defense :)

    Come on Kirk! Downhill baby!

  • RaiderRockstar

    Charlie:

    so Kelly, Warren, Boschetti & Richardson at DT would be an upgarde over Kelly, Warren, Sands & Joseph? I suppose it’s possible. I don’t feel the need to debate backup DT’s with you. I don’t think anybody here would be surprised to see Terdell Sands cut (due to his contract, trade rumors, inconsistant play, etc) or William Joseph (cut last year in favor of Wakefield. resigned after an injury to another player on 11/05)

  • AZ Raider

    Sands will make the team… Who replaces him?