These two Raider linebackers have busted their tail ever since they've put a jersey on. The third linebacker spot has suffered injuries no matter whose name was on the back of the jersey, which has resulted in a lack of production.
Everyone knows that in order for linebackers to be effective in football that the defensive front needs to produce. Produce in terms of causing havoc, pushing the line back and clogging holes. For the past few years, the Oakland Raiders have had major issues stopping the run due to the lack of help upfront. Due to the lack of help, you'd see Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison making tackles five yards past the line of scrimmage.
Howard showed that he's as steady as can be with 80 solo tackles (97 total), 1 int, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 5 pass deflections. Howard has been solid averaging 100.2 tackles the past three seasons.
Morrison was the most productive LB on the roster again with 99 solo tackles (135 total), 1 int, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection. Morrison has also been able to contain the middle by averaging 127.7 tackles the past three seasons.
The lack of sacks is mainly due to the fact that the Raiders haven't blitzed too much under Rob Ryan.
The third wheel to our 4-3 linebacker set has changed often—too often. Last year that spot was filled in by Sam Williams, Jon Alston, Ricky Brown and Robert Thomas.
Sam Williams was a third-rounder (No. 83 overall) in 2003 that the Raiders traded up to get. Even though he was supposed to fall to the fifth/sixth round, Al wanted him and traded up to get him. He hasn't been able to play through one full season so far in his short career.
In three of his six years as a pro he's missed 12+ games. His numbers last year were five tackles, one forced fumble along with a pass deflection in 2 starts. The one year he was able to stay healthy, he didn't produce. He was mainly a special teams guy.
Jon Alston, a third-round pick (No. 77 overall) in 2006 from the St. Louis Rams made it here when he was cut by the Ram after his rookie campaign. He managed to start four games this past year. Alston appeared in 14 games and started in four. All Alston was able to do was get 15 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass deflection.
Ricky Brown was a undrafted free agent in the 2006 draft. He was invited to camp and able to make the squad due to his hard work and a combination of injuries to Kirk Morrison, Sam Williams, and Grant Irons (season ending for Irons). He's been slowly moved from special teams to a back-up LB to a spot starter. In 2008, he was able to get 28 solo tackles (37 total), one forced fumble and one pass deflected.
Robert Thomas, was the former first rounder (31st overall) from St. Louis. After three years with the Rams he was traded to the Green Bay Packers for our very own Chris Johnson. After only one year in Green Bay he was a UFA and the Raiders signed him.
The new possibilities are two of our rookie additions.
Slade Norris, was our sixth round (No. 199 overall) pick this year. He was originally a walk-on DE at the University of Oregon. He's supposed to be a helluva a pass rusher that should challenge for the open LB spot. He stands at 6'5" 251lbs. He ran a 4.77 40 that shows he's got Raiders speed. He's looked well during mini-camps and OTA's.
Frantz Joseph, was signed as an un-drafted free agent. Joseph was supposed to go to Boston College but ended up going to Florida Atlantic University. He decided to play close to home so that he can help support his mother.
He produced while at FAU as he had 154 tackles in 2008 which was second in the nation. Even with that production he wasn't invited to the scouting combine. He's barely been able to keep up with everyone during the first mini-camp, but with OTAs coming this month he can show what he has.
From the look of things, the coaching staff is trying Brown at MLB with the second unit. Jon Alston has been getting reps as a OLB opposite Howard with the first stringers. If Ricky Brown shows he can play that spot, don't be surprised to see Brown starting at MLB which would result in Morrison moving over to OLB.
Norris will get an opportunity to step up along with Joseph during OTAs so we'll have to wait and see. Norris has looked sharp while Joseph is looking abit slow.
Howard has averaged 100.2 tackles, Morrison has averaged 127.7 tackles while their third counterpart has averaged (combined between all other LB's on roster) 76 tackles. That'd include all OLB's and back-up middle linebackers so the number is actually a bit smaller.
Who do you see stepping up to start along with Morrison and Howard?