Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio continues forging an identity for his new team, which no longer includes linebacker Sio Moore. The third-year player out of Connecticut was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a sixth-round pick on Friday:
Del Rio's primary justification of trading Moore was that he likes the depth of Oakland's linebacker corps. And while there is newfound depth at the position after free agency and the NFL draft, much of that depth is unproven.
Behind starters Malcolm Smith, Curtis Lofton and Ray-Ray Armstrong, Oakland will rely on veteran Lorenzo Alexander and rookies Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball at linebacker. In other words, Oakland's linebacker corps really isn't that deep.
While Moore was a fan favorite in Oakland, his stats in Silver and Black are mediocre. Note that his 140 combined tackles with the Raiders are partly a by-product of a lack of surrounding talent.
Honestly, he may end up being remembered more for this nearly disastrous early celebration in the Raiders' first win last season:
It will be interesting to see how the group of linebackers holds up during the season now that Khalil Mack, originally drafted as a linebacker, is now listed as a defensive end on the Raiders' depth chart.
Looking at this depth chart, a couple things stand out. Most glaring is the frail situation at cornerback. Third-year man DJ Hayden has looked like his normal self this preseason, getting beat and beat badly on a consistent basis.
Raider Nation knows how tough it can be watching Hayden cover the NFL's top receivers:
Steve Corkran of Raiders Beat summed up the team's frustrating cornerback situation nicely in a recent tweet:
Second-year cornerback TJ Carrie looks to be a better player than Hayden, but he is also listed as Oakland's punt returner. This is concerning for two reasons.
In the NFL, punt returners get smacked—period. Carrie amazingly played in 13 games last season as a CB and punt returner while managing an interception and 44 tackles on the season. He seems too valuable on defense to be on special teams.
Carrie's listing as punt returner also tells us Oakland still doesn't have a legitimate, game-changing return man. Last season, the Raiders were one of the worst teams in the NFL in terms of yards per return and starting field position.
That may not get better in 2015.
What will be better in 2015 is the team's group of wide receivers. By now, you know that Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are the starters, but make no mistake—this group is deep.
Seth Roberts, a 2014 practice squad member, made a great impression on coaches in the team's final preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, earning him a spot on the 53-man roster. Check out his elusiveness on this 39-yard catch and run:
The Raiders will be better than 3-13 this season, but by how much? An improved offense looks to finally get the Raiders back to scoring touchdowns, but the defense is still shaky on paper.
Quite frankly, it's hard to imagine this defense being better without Sio Moore in the lineup.
It was clear by limited preseason playing time and Del Rio's comment at the beginning of this piece that Moore had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Del Rio sent a message and set an example by trading Moore, and that's OK.
What isn't OK is sending a message at the expense of potential wins. The NFL is a production-based business and the fact is that Moore, whether by default or not, has produced where others on this Raiders roster have not.
Now Moore becomes a member of a fast Colts defense, where he should be a nice fit. He's excited to play on a much better team than the Raiders, rightfully so:
The Raiders just hope this trade doesn't add to a growing list of player-related blunders made by general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Follow Ethan on Twitter @ebai_today for coverage of the Raiders and the entire NFL.