Are Thomas Howard's Days in Oakland Numbered?

Ramone BrownSenior Writer IDecember 1, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Brandon Jacobs #27 of the New York Giants runs through Thomas Howard #53 of the Oakland Raiders during the game on October 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Thomas Howard is a clear fan favorite for the Oakland Raiders, and many consider him the Raiders second-best defender behind Nnamdi Asomugha.

But his future with the team has come into question. Though Howard has been stout in coverage, some would suggest he is riding the hype of his 2007 season when he had six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns of 44 and 66 yards. But since then he has been rather quiet with one interception in the last 29 games.

Not only that but Howard has received criticism for his run support and inability to shed blockers.

Funny, fellow Raider linebacker Kirk Morrison has received the same criticism.

To make matters worse, the former "star" weak-side linebacker has been replaced by second-year player Trevor Scott. Scott had an impressive game with five tackles including two sacks and three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

In the same game, Howard saw little playing time backing up starting strong-side linebacker Sam Williams.

Tom Cable has said that Trevor Scott will start again against Pittsburgh.

Scott's skill-set is nearly opposite of Howard. With experience playing defensive end, he is stronger against the run and better able to shed blocks. His only downfall is his lack of experience in pass coverage.

All this can only mean one of two things for Howard. Either he is being replaced, or he has a position move in his future.

Howard is currently in a contract year, and if the Raiders don't resign him, he will become a free agent. Being demoted as a starter may be a tell-tale sign that the Raiders have already made a decision on Howard. It is a clear possibility that he may not be wearing silver and black next year.

Raiders middle linebacker Morrison is also on a contract year, and the Raiders may have to make a decision between resigning one of the two.

If you had to make a decision between either signing Kirk Morrison or Thomas Howard, who would you pick?

The second possibility is a position change, likely to the strong side. Williams has received a lot of criticism from fans, mainly for being one of Al Davis's scholarship players for his impressive measurables and combination of speed and size.

But next year, competition for the starting strong-side linebacker position will be stiff with both Ricky Brown and Jon Alston returning from injury. With that, Howard's chances of returning to the silver and black are even more diminished.

Don't be surprised if he is gone next year. His days in Oakland may be numbered.