It’s difficult to look for silver linings when losing in blowout fashion. However, there was one that existed amongst the Las Vegas Raiders linebackers against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12.
In retrospect, the linebacker unit played some solid football all around. Had they not stayed on the field for 35 minutes, they would’ve garnered some praise. They were not perfect, but the defense did what they could to keep themselves in the game. Here’s a look back at the unit and what to expect against the New York Jets in Week 13.
The Raiders aren’t getting much from Cory Littleton
Cory Littleton looked like the Raiders’ best free-agent signing in 2020 for his skills on the field. Unfortunately, he’s yet to pick up a sack or force any turnovers, his specialties back with his former team, the Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps it was due to a new system, lack of practice, or having too much on his plate. Regardless of the reason, he is underperforming, and it’s unlikely that things will improve in the remainder of the season.
Before he was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list, Littleton played no less than 98 percent of the team’s total snaps on defense. Against the Falcons, he only played on just 58 percent. He still racked up four total tackles. Maybe a reduced role can benefit him to play more relaxed and progress to what we wanted when signing him. However, another decrease in playing time against the ‘Gang Green’ should be concerning.
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Nick Kwiatkoski and Nicholas Morrow are leading the way
Another free-agent signing in 2020 was Kwiatkoski. The middle linebacker has been solid for Las Vegas against the pass and run. Last week, he recorded six combined tackles, two of them for loss and a sack. Kwiatkoski chased Matt Ryan down the right side and was quick to take him down in the red zone.
Nevertheless, it was Morrow who had the best performance out of the three. He led the team with 10 solo tackles. and had a hit and two passes defensed. When Littleton’s on the sidelines, Morrow has been excellent playing all over the field, something fans were probably expecting to say about Littleton. The Greenville standout has been pretty consistent with his play and has proven to the team why he’s been on the roster since 2017.
What Can This Mean Later?
Linebacker has been a tricky position for the Raiders to figure out for too long. The team has never really had a true leader on defense since Khalil Mack’s departure. Now with Kwiatkoski and Morrow, things seem to be heading in a positive direction. If Littleton gets used to things and improves, this group can become among the top ten in the NFL. This can also lead to less stress on whom the team can acquire later for other positions such as safety depth and defensive tackle in the 2021 Player Selection Meeting.
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