The Oakland Raiders do not have the best line backing corps. In fact, after the corner backs, linebacker is easily the biggest position of need for the Raiders. Oakland has struggled against the run for years now and a big reason behind that is poor linebacker play. It was only a couple of years ago when the Raiders completely blew up their line backing corps and started over with Rolando McClain, Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley.
Now, the Raiders have gotten rid of Groves and Wimbley and have replaced them with Philip Wheeler and Aaron Curry. And now, with the new coaching staff, it would not be surprising if the Raider Nation sees even more change at the linebacker spot over the next year or two. There are already those who believe McClain is not a three down backer and needs to be replaced. Same goes for Curry and Wheeler. The linebacker position is definitely one to keep a close eye on in training camp.
The Raiders currently have 8 linebackers on their roster:
At the middle linebacker position, the Raiders have Rolando McClain, Travis Goethal and Nate Stupar. McClain has yet to live up to his high draft spot and for the most part has been a disappointment for the Raiders. He looks slow in pass coverage and is far too easily blocked out of plays in run coverage. After having stem cell therapy on his knee in the off season, McClain will need to show the Raiders that he can be an every down backer or they might start looking for someone to replace him. If back up Travis Goethal had not been injured the past two seasons, he very well could be considered a serious contender for McClain's starting position this off season. Goethal is a high motor backer that never stops working. He has a great nose for the ball in the run game and plays adequately in pass coverage. He is undersized which may contribute to his injuries, but it does not appear to slow him down on the field as he appears able to get off of blocks easier than the big bodied McClain. Finally, Nate Stupar, the Raiders 7th round pick in 2012, is a special teams player who, over time, may be able to become a solid back up.
At the outside linebacker position, the Raiders have starters Aaron Curry and Philip Wheeler. Behind them are Miles Burris, Kaelin Burnett and Mario Kurn. After the Raiders traded a 7th round pick to get him, Curry looked like a much better player in Oakland than he did in Seattle. However, he also showed a lot of holes in his game and can definitely be challenged for a starting spot. Wheeler is new to the Raiders this season but is known as a solid all around player who does well in both pass and run defense, but does not excel at either. However, despite the fact that neither outside linebacker has their starting position locked down, there is really only one player who could challenge for one of those starting positions, and that is rookie Miles Burris, the Raiders second pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Burris has experience playing both strong and weak side linebacker and can play at either spot with the Raiders. He is a very solid pass rusher and is an above average run defender. If he catches on to the game at the next level quickly enough, he very well could compete to be a starting outside linebacker in 2012.
Kaelin Burnett is an undrafted free agent with some potential. If he is able to make the squad, his rookie season will be spent primarily on special teams, but he could develop into a quality back up down the road if he can live up to his potential. Mario Kurn, on the other hand, is likely a career practice squad and camp body. He will spend some time with the Raiders this off season but is not likely to be around come the pre season.