When the Raiders drafted Malcolm Koonce, his role for this team was as clear as day. Koonce was brought in to be a 3rd down situational pass rusher, hoping to develop into a full-time “LEO” for the Gus Bradley defense.
However, over the past two practices, the Raiders moved Koonce away from the LEO role and moved him to strong-side linebacker.
“Today was my first-day playing linebacker,” said Koonce during Tuesday’s presser. “I’m going to get in where I fit in. Whatever Gus or the coaches think that I’ll be the most successful or I can help the team the most, throw me in there because I’m going to play.”
During Thursday’s practice, Koonce was lined up with the linebackers. Taking practice reps and running team drills with the linebacker’s group, as opposed to taking reps with the defensive linemen.
The Raiders linebackers are a work in progress, especially the strong-side linebacker position. Currently, Tanner Muse is the starter in that role. But they did bring in KJ Wright for a visit last week. Wright happens to play that strong side position. And aside from bringing him in for a visit, we also heard Malcolm Koonce took reps at that same position.
Clearly, the Raiders aren’t comfortable with the state of that strong-side LB position.
Koonce as a Linebacker
Malcolm Koonce lined up as a strong-side linebacker at camp on Tuesday, and once again today. This means for the first time in his career, he was lined up in the “stacked” position (3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage).
The Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley incorporates 34 elements into his 43 defense, and if Koonce is playing the LEO role, moving to strong-side LB shouldn’t be too much of a transition. Of course, he will have to teach his eyes to read from the stacked position, as opposed to being on the line of scrimmage.
With Koonce now taking reps at that LB position, it could indicate two things – either the Raiders are not sure if Tanner Muse is the guy or it could mean the Raider’s defensive ends are too deep, and Rod Marinelli knows that Koonce would see limited playing time at the defensive end position.
Either way, the third-round pick’s main job should be to rush the passer, so it’ll be interesting to see where he lines up when the Raiders take on the Seahawks in Saturday’s game and what his role will be.
Gus Bradley is a coach that moves players around and prefers to utilize players at different spots. If a guy can play defensive end and linebacker, he is that much more valuable. Regardless of where Koonce lines up, it’ll be interesting to see how effective he gets after the quarterback.
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