Raiders

Raiders 53-Man Roster: Linebacker Unit Has Whole New Look

Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders carried four linebackers pretty much the whole season. However, the Silver and Black decided to carry five this time around. Moreover, the unit got a complete makeover and only one of their members came back in 2020.

The Raiders gave their linebacker corps a complete makeover

Other than wide receiver, linebacker was the position the Raiders needed to upgrade the most in 2020. Vontaze Burfict got suspended earlier in the 2019 season, and Tahir Whitehead was a liability against the pass. Moreover, the Silver and Black gave up on Marquel Lee and released him in early August. The Raiders were serious about revamping the unit.

Although many foresaw the Raiders signing a linebacker in this year’s free agency, not many thought they would sign two and not just over-the-hill veterans or low tier players. As a matter of fact, they spent big on their linebacker corps and signed Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. The Raiders had found their starting linebackers for the 2020 season.

The Raiders employ plenty of nickel packages under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, which means they play with three cornerbacks and just two linebackers. For that reason, there might not have been much noise surrounding the team’s third linebacker. Now, that the 53-man roster is set, Raekwon McMillan will tentatively hold that spot after getting to Las Vegas via trade.

Related: Damarious Randall’s Release Shows Raiders Defensive Changeover

Javin White didn’t make the cut

The only remaining player from the Raiders linebacker corps is Nicholas Morrow. He struggled at times last season and missed plenty of tackles in a feature role, so a backup role may suit him better. Rookie Tanner Muse got the last spot in the unit. Even though he struggled at times in training camp, he is still making the transition from safety to linebacker. Now, that the team has placed him on the Injury Reserve list, there won’t be much pressure for him to produce right away. The Clemson standout would have likely had the special teams role Kyle Wilber, who was released, used to have the last two seasons.

Nobody knew how many linebackers the Raiders were going to carry in 2020. Now we know the answer but if they had kept one more, Javin White might have been the choice. Undrafted out of UNLV, he quickly became a Silver and Black favorite. In a press conference, Guenther said the ex-Rebel had both good and bad moments in the Summer so the Raiders must have felt he is still a work in progress and didn’t warrant a roster spot. Nevertheless, he joined the team’s practice squad and can continue developing.

The Raiders linebacker corps didn’t hold many surprises on roster cutdown day. Other than whether White was going to make the final cut or not, the unit lacked any shocking moves. On the bright side, the team’s linebacker group looks better than its 2019 counterpart.

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Top Photo: Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP Pool

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