The Las Vegas Raiders had a less-than-stellar linebacker group in the 2019. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising to see them revamp it this past offseason. Having been part of the unit for the last three years, it’s uncertain if Nicholas Morrow will have a role in 2020.
The last Vegas Raiders signed premier free agents Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to shore up their linebacker corps. They will get most of the team’s snaps and won’t likely come out of the field often. Nevertheless, the Silver and Black haven’t talked about how they’re going to fill the third linebacker spot, and there’s a reason for that.
The Raiders don’t employ a third linebacker often
Last season, only Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow saw more than 70 percent of the Raiders defensive snaps at the linebacker position. Will Compton was third with 23 percent and that’s because the Silver and Black hardly employs a “base defense”. Instead, they like to field two linebackers and a slot cornerback most of the time, close to 75 percent of the defense’s snaps.
With Whitehead gone and Littleton and Kwiatkoski taking over, Morrow will likely hit the bench. However, whomever the Raiders employ as a third linebacker will still see plenty of time. In 2019, the Raiders had 1,063 defensive snaps, and if they have somewhere around that amount this year, the team’s third linebacker will play around 250 snaps. That’s still plenty of time.
Who’s going to get those 250 defensive snaps?
Morrow is currently the most likely player to take over that third linebacker spot. He’s been with the Raiders since 2017 and knows defensive coordinator’s Paul Guenther system well. However, his play left much to be desired in 2019. Pro Football Focus gave the Greenville product a 45. 4 overall grade and missed 17 percent of his tackling attempts. Moreover, Ted Nguyen of The Athletic highlighted Morrow’s susceptibility to bite on play-action.
The Raiders didn’t stop addressing their linebacker corps with the additions of Kwiatkoski and Littleton. They also drafted Tanner Muse and signed Javin White as an undrafted free agent. With Marquel Lee starting the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Tanner will have a shot at competing with Morrow for playing time. Working against the Clemson product though is the fact he will make the transition from safety to linebacker. Then again, Morrow went through the same process coming out of college.
Although White will have a harder time leaving an impression due to his lack of time with the team and familiarity with Guenther’s system, he should get at least a look. He will likely spend time in the Silver and Black’s practice squad before he sees meaningful playing time. Nonetheless, the Raiders should consider him for their third linebacker spot.
Morrow has the edge over Muse and White, but the coaching staff won’t hesitate to bench him if they can get better production out of their rookie linebackers.
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