Overrated, soft, bad tackler, bad run defender. These terms come to mind when looking at the Raiders fourth-year linebacker who anchors their defense. Is he the problem?
Well, the defensive line hasn't really given him much help in terms of drawing up double teams and staying true to their gaps, but when they have given Morrison opportunities for him to make his name heard around the NFL, he fails.
Morrison being the leading tackler for the Raiders the past few years doesn't mean he's good, otherwise Stuart Schweigart would have been a Pro Bowler for the Raiders.
For four years now, the Raiders have patiently waited for Morrison to become a monster in the middle, which they expected going into the 2006 campaign after releasing Danny Clark.
The Raiders thought Morrison, being younger and a tad bigger, could give the defense that extra push. He didn't. Turns out Clark leaving didn't help the Raiders much, but hurt them.
Luckily for Morrison he has some cover skills, so he has built somewhat of a reputation because he has intercepted a couple more passes than another middle linebacker might.
However, linebackers aren't supposed to be ball hawks. They're supposed to hit you at the line of scrimmage, get into the backfield, disrupt things. Anything else is a bonus.
Only once this year did I see Morrison get into the backfield for a loss. It's not only that he is bad at filling his gap(s)/assignments, he's a poor tackler. When you are the starting middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense, you should be the best tackler on the field, period.
Go back to the last game of the season in Tampa Bay, where Morrison looked clueless at times. Not to mention he missed key open field tackles.
He has frequently missed tackles in crucial situations though, along with getting blocked down at the goal line.
It doesn't help the Raiders that they don't have a nose tackle to help draw up double teams, because they have been using Gerard Warren and Terdel Sands in the nose spot, even though Warren is undersized and Sands is a backup player.
It's almost an excuse though, because Morrison has been with most of his front seven for a good two years, and he really hasn't made strides.
There has been talk that moving Morrison to strong side linebacker would be a better fit for him, then getting a nasty middle linebacker to do the things Morrison couldn't do.
Kind of makes you scratch your head though, because if a linebacker can't make plays or be some what disruptive at all, why would he do it in a different position?
Well, he started as an outside linebacker his first year, and that was his best season, besides his 2007 interceptions (four) that got his name out there.
In four NFL seasons, Kirk Morrison has three sacks, 498 total tackles and seven picks. If only they counted how many times Morrison was blocked out of a play or whiffed when going to make a tackle, someone in the Raiders organization would realize he's not been playing good.
His inability to shed blocks and make open-field tackles just makes him painful to watch sometimes. Morrison is an average, at best, middle linebacker.
The Raiders ought to take a look at some free agents in Takeo Spikes (49ers), Mike Peterson (Jaguars), and possibly Bart Scott (Ravens) to come in and compete to take the anchoring position of the Oakland Raiders defense.
If the Raiders want a leader on defense; a player that plays aggressive, that plays well and gets the best out of the people around him, they'd be wise not to hand over the starting middle linebacker spot to Morrison.
He has not played well nor provided the spark they have needed for a while. If Al Davis can't realize that he needed to improve both offensive and defensive lines last year and the year before, when will he figure out Morrison is a liability?
There will be a better view on Morrison's play if the Raiders get a nose tackle to clog the middle this year. For their sake and ours, lets hope that the Raiders don't hope Terdel Sands is going to elavate his game in 2009 and sidestep the need at nose tackle.
It might even help Morrison, too.
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