Is Wheeler a playmaker at SAM linebacker?

August 6, 2012, 10:44 pm
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NAPA -- Philip Wheeler is far from your prototypical strongside NFL linebacker.He's been told throughout his career that he is not big enough for the position. Not quick enough to elude blockers. Not shifty enough to cover tight ends in coverage."I don't think I'm prototypical anything," Wheeller said following Monday's practice. "I just feel like I can listen to what the coaches are telling me and play the proper technique. They know what theyre doing. Theyre putting me and other players in the best positions for us to make plays."And in this new multiple-look defensive scheme, that's all the Raiders are looking for from their new SAM linebacker.Yes, the guy he's replacing wracked up a combined 16 sacks the past two seasons, but Kamerion Wimbley signed with Tennessee as a defensive end after being cut by the Raiders in what amounted to a salary dump when the two sides could not come to an agreement on a more palatable -- to the Raiders anyway -- contract.And Wheeler is by no means a pass-rushing specialist -- he has two sacks in his career. But such was his existence in Indianapolis' Cover-2 defense. This new Raiders' scheme?"Its way more aggressive, its more fun, more playmaking for a lot of guys, more plays out there to be made for a lot of guys instead of a couple of guys," Wheeler said. "In Indy playmakers were like the defensive ends. I guess this is more linebacker-friendly and everybody-friendly. Everybody makes plays in this defense."In Monday's team session, Wheeler went horizontal to break up a Carson Palmer pass. The day before, he held onto the ball for an interception.GUTIERREZ: Raiders camp summary (86): Live hitting to ground makes appearance
"I think hes done a nice job," coach Dennis Allen said of Wheeler. "He gives us some athleticism at that position. Obviously, weve been able to rush him some and also put him back in coverage, but I think hes a guy that hasnt played a lot on the ball, but hes done a nice job there. And then obviously coming from Indianapolis and the Tampa-2 system, his stack-linebacker-off-the-ball play has been good."The Raiders linebackers last season were a relative soft spot against the run, while the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Wheeler had a career-high 84 tackles and forced a fumble for the Colts."I think hes a good tackler," Allen said. "Well obviously find out when we start really playing preseason games, because we havent done a lot of that, but from what Ive seen so far I would anticipate him being a good tackler."Wheeler concurred."I try to (be a good tackler)," Wheeler said. "I try not to miss tackles, try to wrap up, do the techniques that coaches tell us to do. We practice it every day. I feel like since we are out here in pads and were hitting -- we didnt hit as much where I was before -- so I feel like were getting used to it, and I think well tackle pretty good."Wheeler also has yet to get an interception in his -- Wimbley had one in Oakland.And about those lack of sacks?"Yeah, Im looking forward to getting some sacks, picks, knockout shots, not only from myself but from my other teammates," Wheeler said. "Weve got some amazing athletes out there. We got fast athletes, some of the fastest guys in the league out there. I think were going to be fine."