The Las Vegas Raiders signed Nick Kwiatkoski to improve the production at the middle linebacker position. Having said that, will he really be an upgrade over former starter Tahir Whitehead?
The Raiders invested heavily in Cory Littleton and Kwiatkoski to patch up their linebacker corps. While the former could already be the team’s most underrated player on the team, the later may have a harder time making an impact on the NFL team.
Is Kwiatkoski Ready for a Full-Time Role?
According to insider Paul Gutierrez of ESPN, Kwiatkoski’s signing may not amount to an improvement at the middle linebacker position. In a recent article, Gutierrez broke down the Raiders roster and looked at every single position to see if they were better, worse or the same as last season. Regarding the middle linebacker, the insider said Kwiatkoski hasn’t proven he can’t be a 16-game starter yet.
“Wait, wasn’t the addition of Kwiatkoski supposed to be an upgrade after the Burfict experiment flamed out, thanks to the NFL banning him for the season after an illegal hit? Wasn’t it supposed to be an upgrade from the ineffective Tahir Whitehead, who was replaced as the MIKE in the Raiders’ base 4-3 defense by Compton, a guy who was hosting a podcast? Well, yeah. And Kwiatkoski will wear the green dot communications helmet as the team’s defensive playcaller. But he is, ahem, green himself, having not become a full-time starter until midway through last season for the Bears.” Gutierrez wrote.
“Phillips is the only other linebacker who is a pure MIKE, so depth is an issue, too, though the Raiders do spend a lot of time in their nickel defense. Plus, Marquel Lee can play middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in a pinch, too.”
Gutierrez kind of has a point. A role player can thrive in a limited role and later falter with extended responsibilities. Although Kwiatkoski played well last season, it’s uncertain if he can keep up and his production carry over to a whole season. At this point, it’s basically a coin flip, and it could go either way.
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