Is Raiders LB depth a question?
The biggest fear for teams in preseason are sustaining key injuries to their best players. For the Raiders that fear was made a reality the last preseason game against the Rams after losing valuable depth at the linebacker spot. Raiders lost two key linebackers penciled in starter Nicholas Morrow and key reserve Javin White.
"They're both going to be out for a while," Head Coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday. "Looks like Morrow will be out a little bit longer than White, so that's unfortunate, but we'll have to continue to develop our young linebackers and perhaps find another."
As unfortunate as injuries are they do bring opportunities for other players and for the Raiders it allows them to rely on a pair of youngsters and a familiar veteran. The Raiders this year and last year drafted two very interesting prospects Tanner Muse and Devine Deablo, both guys have similar makeup, both ACC products both guys were former college safeties that have been converted to linebacker.
What both men bring to the table is a great combination of size and speed mixed with good coverage skills. Also their versatility is second to none. They are also wildcards coming in as both men have dealt with injuries and haven’t been able to practice much.
"Tanner went inside and give him credit," said Gruden. "He's playing WILL, he's playing OTTO. He's playing two or three positions and he's a very good special teams player. And he needs to play, he didn't play at all last year and he hasn't really been a linebacker for more than six months. So, this is good for him.
As far as Deablo is concerned coming out of Virgina Tech he has drawn a lot of comparisons to Kam Chancellor which is very high praise. The team is excited to see him finally play in gametime action.
"He's got athleticism and range, and he has playing speed. He showed very good instincts at Virginia Tech at a couple different positions, so that combination is exciting," Gruden said. "We think he and Cory [Littleton] will give us two really athletic, young linebackers and we're hoping he can be a fast track. He's going to have to learn quickly on the run because they are not postponing any of our games or delaying the startups."
The Raiders also made a move for veteran Denzel Perryman who has ties to Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Perryman has always been a solid starter for Bradley; it's just injury concerns that have plagued his career. However, anytime you can add solid depth and a guy that has experience in running your system is always a good thing.
“Denzel, we have a lot of history with him just from our time back with the Chargers. He’s a very good leader, very good pro. He brings some explosiveness to us,” Bradley told reporters on Thursday. “He’s got very good instincts. He understands the package and what is asked of him. So we just need to create some more depth there because of some of the situations we’ve been in. So, healthy and coming back in and able to play, he’ll be a good addition.”
The Raiders defense has really been its Achilles heel over the past few years and injuries this late in training camp is scary, but it does give some valuable opportunities to other guys to step up and make a name for themselves. As the Raiders have often said “It’s next man up.”