By Courtney Cronin, firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the best pure pass rushers from the 2016 NFL Draft class is now a protege of two of the best to do it in the league.
Former Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun is used to blowing up opposing backfields with his explosive speed off the edge. When the Raiders third round draft pick arrived at training camp, more was asked of Calhoun and his athletic abilities as he began cross training as a strong-side linebacker.
“I’m adapting to it very well,” Calhoun said. “Playing behind a guy who comes from Seattle, who has had a great pass rushing background, who has a great coverage background as well in Bruce Irvin and then on the opposite side I play behind a guy who is a Pro Bowler in two different positions and is just a monster defensive lineman all around in Khalil Mack. It’s great to get feedback from both of those guys and add it to my game.”
As a rookie, Calhoun hopes his versatility at both positions will lead him to seeing the field this season, backing up Irvin at the strong-side linebacker spot or relieving Mack in a sub-package defense.
Calhoun played primarily in a three-point stance during a collegiate career where he racked up 27 sacks with 18.5 coming during his junior and senior year. At outside linebacker, he’s learning to play snaps standing up, which has been adjustment.
“It’s definitely a big change,” he said. “When I was in college I actually wanted to stand up in the two-point so now I have the opportunity and I’m trying to take hold of it.”
The bright side of that change? Calhoun can see the entire defense from a two-point stance while watching plays unfold before executing his assignment.
Long before his NFL rookie debut last week, the 6-foot-4, 251-pounder was a star on the hardwood in high school, averaging a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds during the 2010-11 season at New Jersey’s Middletown High School North.
Bay Area News Group’s Courtney Cronin goes one-on-one with the new Raider on learning a new position, the part he enjoys most about being an edge rusher and who from Oakland’s 90-man roster, besides himself, could have a future in basketball.
Follow Courtney Cronin on Twitter @CourtneyRCronin.