Five linebackers cracked the Las Vegas Raiders’ 53-man roster for the 2023 season. While fans, pundits, and experts think the Raiders need better at the position, the regime loves what they have.
With the team’s Week 1 clash versus the Denver Broncos upon us, let’s briefly recap said linebackers. More important, though, is how and why the Raiders’ brass believes in them moving forward this season.
Fresh off the street, free-agent acquisition Robert Spillane earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with hard work and dedication to the process. A five-year vet with stops in Tennessee and Pittsburgh, Spillane has learned how to play good defense in this league. By keying in on his responsibilities and playing in the system, he may have stolen the lead role in the middle of the field.
#Raiders captains: Offense – Garoppolo, Jacobs, Miller & Adams. Defense – Maxx Crosby, Robert Spillane, Marcus Epps….plus Carlson/AJ Cole
— Scott Gulbransen (@LVGully) September 6, 2023
Voted one of nine team captains by his teammates, Spillane has a real opportunity to be the guy. A focused mentality and appreciation for the message being preached by his coaching staff have brought him to this point. His abilities as a thumper, a run defender, and a blitzer provide a comparable exchange to the outgoing Denzel Perryman.
It would not surprise me if Spillane is wearing the illustrious green dot (headset communications with the coaching staff) by the midpoint of the regular season. Schematically, the Raiders are a 4-3 defense but will employ a lot of sub-packages defensively. Often only having two linebackers on the field.
Curtis Bolton and Divine Deablo: The Future?
Divine Deablo is starting opposite Spillane and figures to utilize his former collegiate safety experience to aid in sub-packages. In his third year, Deablo gets the opportunity to compete to be the guy—to take the next step and prove himself to the league and Raider Nation. Let’s face it, Silver and Black fans are rooting for this kid.
The Raiders having linebackers named Isaac Darkangelo and Divine Deablo is very, very on brand. https://t.co/DRQwOcpPYH
— Alex Smith (@AlexSmithSNY) August 31, 2023
Curtis Bolton has made plays with hustle and grit and by being in the right place at the right time all preseason long. Playing special teams and outside linebacker, tackling, and creating turnovers, Bolton has been the most productive linebacker outside of Drake Thomas. Thomas, who, by the way, was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks—so much for all that.
Either way, both linebackers (Deablo and Bolton) have shown marked improvement and development. Including a much better grasp of the vision, plan, and ability to execute the defense.
What do the Raiders have in Amari Burney and Luke Masterson?
Amari Burney is the Raiders sixth-round draft pick and another converted safety. In the preseason and all through training camp, Burney has made plays and proven he belongs. He is one of the bigger linebackers on the team as well as one of its fastest.
Luke Masterson was the final selection for the roster. It’s debatable whether or not he made the team on the Josh McDaniels scholarship program. All that being said, Masterson is in his second year with the team and is another linebacker converted from safety. He has shown improvement in all aspects of his game.
The question is, will it be enough? It’s well-documented that Raiders fans are feeling uneasy about this linebacker group. Will their fears be justified or disproven? We will find out soon enough.
*Top Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports