Raiders training camp preview: Linebackers

Raiders training camp preview: Linebackers
July 23, 2014, 9:00 am
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Mack can do most everything well, but will primarily be in attack mode getting after the quarterback. Moore is expected to move to the weakside, with Roach remaining in the middle.
Scott Bair

Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 23, with the first practice day scheduled for July 25. In this installment, Scott focuses on linebackers.

Who they have: Kaelin Burnett, Justin Cole, Carlos Fields, Bojay Filimoeatu, Khalil Mack, Kaluka Maiava, Marshall McFadden, Sio Moore, Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett, Miles Burris

Who they lost: No one

Looking back: The Raiders had a solid starting unit, though injuries to key depth denied them predictable rest. Middle linebacker Roach played every defensive snap last season, but was a pleasant surprise – 112 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles -- despite the heavy workload. Kevin Burnett was also strong, with 105 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Sio Moore played strongside linebacker and made the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie team. The core got stronger when Maiava and Burris returned to health later in the season.

[REWIND: Mack honored with ceremonial key to his hometown]

Overall outlook: Linebacker could be the Raiders’ greatest defensive strength this season. They have quality depth and continuity within the position group, which didn’t lose a member despite great turnover this offseason. Mack is the newest addition, but he should make the group far better. The No. 5 overall pick will play on the strongside in the base defense, but he calls it a “wildcard position.” Expect Mack to be moved around to create unpredictability in the Raiders pass rush. Mack can do most everything well, but will primarily be in attack mode getting after the quarterback. Moore is expected to move to the weakside, with Roach remaining in the middle.

[RELATED: Burris fully recovered after 'dark' season]

Camp competition: The competition at weakside linebacker should be among the best this training camp. Moore, Burnett and Burris are all viable candidates, and head coach Dennis Allen has shown a willingness to cast the best fit over seniority or draft status. All three players are strong, and the best preseason could declare a victory. Versatilty makes Maiava and Burris strong assests. Linebackers generally make good special teams players, and that’s how the back end of the depth chart could fill out. Kaelin Burnett filled that role last year, but young players could offer competition there.