One of the newest additions to the Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff this offseason was Antonio Pierce. The former New York Giants linebacker and assistant coach at Arizona State is doing noteworthy work at Raiders camp.
Coaching up young members of the linebacker group such as Darien Butler and Divine Deablo will be instrumental moving forward. Speaking of those youngsters, Pierce recently mentioned that the linebacker position itself has evolved from his playing days. A player now needs to be able to cover multiple fronts, whether it’s the passing or running game. Hybrid players such as Deablo are the future of the position. You need sideline-to-sideline speed, upper-tier recognition skills, and tackling ability to bring down either running backs, wide receivers, or tight ends.
“Playing linebacker is more difficult than any other time. You’re asked to take on a 330-pound guard, cover a running back in space or tackle a running back in space at 200 pounds, and then go out there and run with T-Billy (Tyron Johnson), who’s running a 4.2 or 4.3 down the field at times. It’s very unique.”
Antonio Pierce praises the current batch of Raiders linebackers
The word that Pierce used to describe the current linebacking group was “unique.” It’s actually a fair assessment. Linebackers these days are asked to do a little bit of everything, which is the true heart of a defense. Compared to previous incarnations, the Raiders are heading into the 2022 season with a promising and talented corps. Denzel Perryman is back following a Pro Bowl-level campaign, but that’s not all. In limited action, Deablo had an encouraging display, at least enough to show that he was worthy of his third-round selection. Darien Butler has also made an impression during camp and will most likely see playing time during the season. Also, don’t forget about Jayon Brown, who’s still in the mix for a starting gig.
So far, Pierce has been very complimentary of his linebackers. In particular, he pointed out how they’re adjusting to and learning the new scheme.
“I think the linebackers we brought in all fit that mold of guys that can be three-down linebackers. For me, I’m seeing these guys and teaching them to not be the typical linebacker that just wants to run to the sideline. Doing everything from the inside-out, playing within the scheme of our defense in how we’re built and how (defensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) has structured it, I think is critical.”
With tomorrow’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings upon us, the linebacker group will be something to keep an eye on. Specifically, with Butler given injuries to the rest of the group.
*Top Photo: Sports Illustrated/Fan Nation