The Oakland Raider linebacker unit has a lot in common with the defensive line. A draft pick here and a pick-up there has made this unit a team strength instead of a weakness.
First round pick Rolando McClain and former Cleveland Brown Kamerion Wimbley have been added. Trevor Scott was moved over from defensive end to make a much improved corps for the Raiders.
They already helped in slowing down the the vaunted running game of the Cowboys.
Sure it's the preseason but the ones vs ones match-up was advantage Raiders on Thursday night. The back-ups also came in and kept the Cowboy back-ups from getting the running game off.
The Cowboys have a deep backfield with, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. The Raiders showed that they were equally as deep at the linebacker position as the run defense was sustained.
Turn the page to check the status on this deep group.
McClain appears to be the first immediate impact first round pick the Raiders have had since the turn of the century.
Nnamdi Asomugha may be All-World now but it took him a few years.
As soon as he was drafted, McClain wanted a playbook because he wanted to step up as the leader of the Raider defense right away. So far, McClain shows no sign of being any kind of disappointment.
He has come right in to make plays for the Raider defense.
Teammate Michael Huff said, "He's playing the pass, playing the run. If we get that from him, it's going to make my job on the back end much easier."
So far this youngster has all the vets excited about what he is doing.
Scott has shown Raider Nation that he can rush the passer. He had 12 sacks in his first two years with only seven starts.
He won't be mistaken for Thomas Howard in coverage but he is getting better there.
He won't be in coverage too much anyway as he will blitz most of the time in the Raider's new scheme. That is what will make him such a strong presence at weak-side outside linebacker.
He also does a good job at holding his corner in the run game. He doesn't stay blocked whether it be a pass or a running play.
I expect double digit sacks for Scott this year.
Wimbley is a former first round pick that had 11 sacks in his first year. His sack numbers went down as a result of not having other pass rushers in Cleveland but he improved as an over-all linebacker.
That got him the strong-side assignment in Raider Nation. He does still have pass-rush ability so look for an occasional from Wimbley. However, he has looked good both against the run and in pass coverage so far in camp.
Wimbley's arrival to Raider Nation completes this unit.
Thomas Howard will be the first Raider linebacker to come off the bench for pass coverage duties. Thomas didn't get it done against the run in Raider Nation so his role is the correct one.
Howard's speed will help the Raiders on special teams as well as his pass coverage.
Quentin Groves is another one of those DE/OLB hybrids for the elephant scheme. He has been seen playing both positions though out camp and in the preseason opener in Dallas.
He has looked good too.
Look for Groves to give the Raiders depth at both positions and plug in where ever needed.
Ricky Brown can play.
But can he play?
What do I mean?
He earned himself a starting spot on the outside but lost in to injury. Now he's looking to back McClain up at middle linebacker.
He has a hungry sixth round pick lurking behind him so he better stay healthy.
I can't trust a man to fill in for an injured player if he is always hurt himself.
Rookie sixth round middle linebacker Travis Goethel has looked good in camp and in Thursday's game.
He is making a strong case to be McClain's back up.
Goethel should at least be kept for special team until developing further.
Sam Williams has been on scholarship for a long time and has shown no signs of turning out. With Ekejuba now gone, I wonder if Williams will be the one to replace him.
Nothing else has worked out for Williams over the years.
I hope you enjoyed the slide show.