Are The Oakland Raiders Preparing for Life Without Kirk Morrison?

Ramone BrownSenior Writer IJuly 11, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 24:  Linebacker Kirk Morrison #52 of the Oakland Raiders against the St. Louis Rams during a preseason game at McAfee Coliseum on August 24, 2007 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Greg Trott/Getty Images)

Kirk Morrison is loved and adored by many Raider Fans and most Raider fans would consider him as the leader and heart of the defense because he has led the Raiders in tackles for the last few years.

At first glance, Morrison is a highly talented line-backer, often praised for his speed and coverage skills.

Kirk Morrison was born a Raider.  Throughout Morrison's youth, his father owned and still has season tickets for the Raiders.  Morrison attended a local highschool and played college ball at SDSU but then returned north to his home town when the Raiders selected him in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Most recently, Morrison even defended JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders 1st day draft picks on the TV show Rome is Burning, which was hosted by the fill-in -- and bumbling idiot -- Keyshawn Johnson.

Is it possible though that all this has blinded Raider fans to Morrisons' many flaws?

Lately Morrsion has received some criticism by frustrated Raider fans who claim that he isn't as good as often made out to be.

Sure he has many tackles, but on the other hand, it can be argued that he is rarely seen attacking the line of scrimmage, and that he is rarely the agressor by waiting for backs to come to him after a few yards.

Some have cited Morrisons' habits of over pursuing and an inability to shed blocks as he is often helplessly blocked from plays.  Few have even asserted that Morrison is soft and overrated, and will cite his lackluster performances, one as recently as the Raiders last victory over Tampa Bay in 2008.

To make the matter worse for Morrison, recent personnel moves by the Raiders, seemingly indicate that the Raiders may lack confidence in Morrison, and that he now looks expendable.

Firstly, Morrison is in a contract year, so if he wants to cash-in next offseason, then the Raiders may defer from resigning him, especially when his on-field performance is questionable.

Secondly, there is the moving of Ricky Brown from strong to middle linebacker during OTAs.  During practices, Brown has played with the second team defense, while Morrison as expected has played with the 1st team.

Thirdly, there is the signing of Sun Belt Conference standout Frantz Joseph who was second in the nation in total tackles last year with 154.  Many people are very high on Joseph despite his undrafted status, which arguably resulted from play in a smaller conference.  Moreover, Joseph also failed a drug test, in which he tested positive for marijuana.

Finally, Chris O'Neil has been asked to inside-linebacker rather than his natural position of tight-end, in the hope that his outstanding special teams coverage and open field tackling can transfer to the defense.

Those moves have seemingly indicated that the Raiders lack confidence in their middle-linebackers.

Let me ask you this though, if Morrison is so good: why are the Raiders clearly trying to replace him?

To Morrison's credit, some have blamed his "soft play" on Rob Ryan's "vanilla" prevent style of defensive schemes.  Another factor is the sub-par performance of the D-line against the run, especially at the nose-tackle position.

The time for making excuses for Morrison is over, because he is a grown man and a 6'2'' 240 pound NFL line-backer.  Rob Ryan has been replaced by John Marshall and the D-line has been improved, though I must admit that the nose-tackle position is seemingly neglected.

Rather than, the mediocrity of being content with racking-up tackles, I want to see Morrison attack the running-backs by meeting them at or behind the line of scrimmage.

I want to see Morrison strike fear into ball carriers and hit as hard as a "great" linebacker should.  I want to see Morrison attack and defeat blockers, rather than play on his heels.

If Morrison fails to do this in 2009 and only continues his "average" play, then he will not silence his critics, and I will not expect him to return in a Raider uniform for 2010.

On a side note, there has been speculation that Morrison will be moved to play strong-outside backer or SAM -- the position he started his rookie year.