The Raiders depth at linebacker was one of the biggest question marks coming into the 2021 NFL season. If injuries at that position were to hamper the Silver and Black, who would step up? Well, that time has come. The Raiders are without four linebackers: Nicholas Morrow, Nick Kwiatkoski, Javin White, and Darron Lee.
During Wednesdays’ presser, Jon Gruden was asked about the status of his linebackers, specifically the two who got hurt against the Rams. “They’re both [Javin White and Nicholas Morrow] going to be out for a while. Looks like Morrow will be out a little bit longer than White. So that’s unfortunate, but we will have to continue to develop our young linebackers and perhaps find another.”
Nicholas Morrow got hurt during last Thursday’s joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams. The ankle injury happened on the final play of scrimmage. Javin White was hurt during the Raiders vs. Rams preseason week two matchup when a teammate was blocked into his knee.
When asked if he’s concerned about the young linebackers being out for week one of the regular season, Gruden went on to say, “Obviously, we are concerned about them being available.” If Morrow and White are both out, the Raiders lose their starting inside linebacker and primary backup to Cory Littleton.
Gruden also mentioned the possibility of playing a “dime” look with a safety who can take on blocks and help support the run. “A guy who is 215 to 220 pounds. Perhaps [Karl] Joseph, [Johnathan] Abram, or ]Tyree] Gillespie. A guy that can take on blocks, shed blocks. And physically take the pounding in there.”
If the Raiders were to play a “dime” look, they would likely use Cory Littleton and one of the three box safeties that Gruden mentioned. If they did play the dime defense, would the Raiders be able to stop the run, especially come Week 1 against a run-heavy offense of the Baltimore Ravens?
During the Rams vs. Raiders preseason week two, the Raiders rolled with Tanner Muse on the inside after White’s injury. Gruden was asked if Muse could potentially move from his OTTO role to the inside linebacker position in the future.
Gruden responded, “He had to. All linebackers got hurt… Tanner went inside. Give him credit. He’s playing Will. He’s playing OTTO. He’s playing two or three positions. and he’s a very good special teams player.”
Shifting from the OTTO linebacker to an insider linebacker is no easy task, but the Raiders need help inside. Losing two of your five inside linebackers is tough for any team. The Raiders could also look for help through free agency.
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