Of all the positions that have haunted the Las Vegas Raiders over the years, few have been ignored quite as badly as linebacker. 2020 will finally be different for a myriad of reasons.
Before this offseason, the closest thing the Raiders had to a solid force at linebacker was the duo of Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard back in 2009. Since then, there’s been a revolving door of draft busts and veteran band-aids.
This spring, the Raiders added Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, finally giving the team some proven muscle in the front seven. Everyone knows what they bring to the table, but what about the other guys the Raiders added this offseason? Today, I’ll take a closer look at Javin White and Tanner Muse, a pair of rookies that might make an impact on the Raiders this year.
There’s a couple rookie linebackers ready to rock the Raiders roster
The Raiders selected safety/linebacker prospect, Tanner Muse, out of (mock surprise) Clemson in the third round of this year’s draft, and it shocked some people. He was a projected fifth or sixth-round talent, but Mike Mayock selected him with the 100th overall pick. Muse is an interesting prospect because he’s not really a linebacker as much as a box safety. He’s a fun project for Paul Guenther, who cut his teeth developing linebackers back in Cincinnati for Mike Zimmer, and a freak athlete.
At 6’2, 230, Muse ran a 4.41 40-yard dash, and is primed to come in and make an immediate impact on special teams. Players like Muse have so much upside, the only thing separating him from greatness will be his own work ethic. The difference between offseason addition Cory Littleton, a great athlete that went undrafted, and former Raider bust, Obi Melifonwu, is the work they put on off-camera.
The Raiders don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker. Outside of Littleton and Kwiatkoski, the only other linebacker with legitimate pro experience is Nicholas Morrow, who has been hit or miss with the Raiders. If Muse can pick up the playbook quickly and find a role, he could sneak into a starting role before his rookie season is over.
That is… unless… someone else has anything to say about it.
My favorite fun fact about undrafted rookie linebacker, Javin White? He’s from Oakland and went to UNLV. There’s something poetic about someone from Oakland that moved to Las Vegas making the team that amuses the storyteller in me. But make no mistake, the 6’2 linebacker is more than just a good story.
The Raiders may have missed out on Isaiah Simmons in the first round, but the undrafted rookie has more in common with the highly touted rookie prospect than you might think. Recording an impressive 4.45 40 yard dash, as well as a 40 inch vertical, White is a physical specimen. A little thin for a traditional linebacker (he weighed in at 211 pounds), White plays violently, with intent, and has proven to be adept in coverage. After a lifetime of linebackers that gave up third-down conversions, a linebacker that can cover is invaluable.
— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) August 13, 2020
So far, White has impressed during camp, drawing praise from Maxx Crosby and coach Gruden, a real statement considering how strange the offseason has been. Undrafted rookies face a steeper challenge than ever, but as long as he keeps working hard, keeps impressing the right people, and he can stay healthy, not only will he make the roster but will contribute as a rookie as well. The Raiders added two rookie linebackers with similar skill-sets and nothing but upside.
Final Words on Raiders Third LB
With Littleton and Kwiatkoski having the Mike and Will linebacker spots filled, that leaves the third spot open. Both Muse And White will figure to get snaps at that third slot but it won’t end there. Fans should expect them to also help on special teams and sneak into the safety rotation while developing into NFL players.
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*Top Photo: UNLV Athletics