On the first installment of this series, we took a look at the Oakland Raiders’ 2019 core of defensive backs. This time around, we’ll be taking a look at the linebackers. This is one of the many parts of the Raiders that received a huge makeover this offseason.
Weakside Linebackers: Tahir Whitehead, Nicholas Morrow, Te’von Coney, Koa Farmer
Coming off a strong 2018 season, Tahir Whitehead looks to be the strong favorite to start here for the Silver & Black. Whitehead was among league leaders in tackles last year, with 126 (89 solo) which was good enough for the 9th most in the NFL. He also wound up forcing a fumble, nabbing an interception along with having five passes defended while starting all 16 games last year.
Nicholas Morrow has been a solid piece for this defense the last two years, with 100 tackles in the past two seasons combined. He’s played in all 16 games each season, and I expect him to continue being a solid player off the bench.
Koa Farmer and Te’von Coney are both undrafted rookies out of Penn State and Notre Dame. With roster spots at a premium, these two are facing an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. With that said, it will be an intriguing position battle to focus on as camp continues.
Middle Linebackers: Vontaze Burfict, Jason Cabinda, Kyle Wilber
Vontaze Burfict will add a lot of talent to this defense, but only if he can stay on the field. Burfict has been suspended three times for a total of 10 games and has been fined a whopping 10 times as well.
When he’s on the field, Burfict brings a level of intensity that’s hard to match. The last time he played a full season, he finished with an incredible 177 tackles (115 solo!). The bad news? That was 2013. He’s managed to put up productive numbers since then, but he’s never been close to playing a full season again. If he can stay on the field, he’ll be one of the most productive players on this team.
Jason Cabinda will be entering his second year in the league after climbing the latter from being an undrafted rookie free agent making the practice squad to eventually cracking the starting lineup. Cabinda is right there on the roster bubble yet again as he will battling with Kyle Wilbur. However, I won’t be shocked if both wind up on the roster.
Strong Side Linebackers: Brandon Marshall, Marquel Lee, James Cowser
Brandon Marshall was a sneaky-good addition this offseason. The Marshall signing is perhaps one of the most underrated signings in the entire league. After putting up seasons with 119, 106, and 101 tackles with the Broncos, Marshall has joined the dark side. Like Burfict, Marshall needs to stay on the field, as he’s coming off a year with just seven games started. If he can consistently see the field he’s a huge upgrade to this linebacker group.
Marquel Lee is a really nice, young, and underrated piece to this group. He’s just 23-years-old and is coming off a solid second season with 68 tackles. Lee is one of the best depth players on this team and should have a productive future with the Raiders. I consider him a lock to make the team, while James Cowser will be fighting with Coney and Farmer for a roster spot.
Overall, the group this year is looking MUCH better than last year’s. Vontaze Burfict brings physicality and nastiness to the nastiest position on the field, and Marshall will bring some much-needed talent to a defense that’s missed an absurd amount of tackles these last few years. Combine those two with Whitehead and the excellent year he’s coming off of, and you’ve suddenly got a good linebacker core, something the Raiders haven’t boasted in some time.