Running back Christian McCaffrey is the Carolina Panthers’ best offensive weapon, and the Las Vegas Raiders’ new linebacker corps will try to minimize McCaffrey’s impact. Their newest member, Raekwon McMillan, will have an important role in stopping Carolina’s offense.
The Raiders will have just two linebackers on the field most of the time
On paper, the Panthers don’t have much talent on their roster. However, the Raiders must not underestimate them, as McCaffrey will pose a threat every time he touches the ball. The Panthers can deploy him on both the passing and running game and the Raiders linebackers will try to contain them as much as they can.
The Raiders signed Littleton and Kwiatkoski this past free agency, two of the most coveted linebackers. They are a clear improvement over Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow and Will Compton, who were the starters towards the end of the 2019 season. To round up their linebacker group, they traded for Raekwon McMillan in exchange for running back Lynn Bowden Jr.
Littleton and Kwiatkoski will see the field on most defensive snaps. Meanwhile, McMillan will come out of the field in nickel packages. Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will deploy three cornerbacks and just two linebackers in 2020. It isn’t just him though, base defenses are becoming less common with the evolution of the passing game in the NFL. 22 teams used the nickel formation in 51 percent of all their defensive snaps in 2019 and the Raiders used it 74 percent. If they continue that trend, McMillan will only play in 26 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
Raekwon McMillan will play an important role
Even though McMillan won’t see the field as often as Kwiatkoski or Littleton, he will still play an important role. After all, 26 percent in a game is still plenty of defensive snaps. Although the linebacker has struggled at times in coverage, he excels in run support. That’s where he will carve a niche with the Silver and Black. Guenther won’t ask him to do something he can’t and instead, he will accentuate his strengths.
In his latest press conference, Guenther says McMillan is ready and should not be fazed even though he just recently joined the team. The Raiders defensive coordinator points out the linebacker has been in systems similar to the one they run.
He has done a good job. Vance Joseph was the secondary coach for me in Cincinnati and after 2015 a bunch of those guys moved on and got coordinator jobs and I lost all my coaches. Vance was down there, implemented the system in Miami when he was there as a rookie linebacker. Then, Matt Burke, who was the linebackers coach with him, became the next coordinator in Miami. The terminology, the coverage, elements, all those things he was used to, how we call the fronts and the defenses, he has come in like he knows the defense.
There have definitely been some adjustments in McMillan’s end, but it seems like McMillan has adjusted smoothly. He won’t be the most important defender on Sunday against the Panthers. Nevertheless, he will still play an important role in stopping Carolina’s rushing attack.
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