Training camp outlook: Linebacker

This is one story in a series that looks at the Oakland Raiders, who report for training camp on July 29 in Napa, CA, by position. Today, silverandblack.com takes a look at linebacker:

The lineup of this unit is largely going to depend on which alignment the Oakland Raiders employ at the time.

The Raiders are expected to use more 3-4 looks to go along with their base 4-3 under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The team has overhauled its scheme and personnel. The Raiders released Bill Romanowski and lost free agent Eric Barton (New York Jets) and acquired Dwayne Rudd (Tampa Bay) and Danny Clark (Jacksonville) as free agents.

Rudd and Travian Smith will man the outside spots in the 3-4. Smith, who is an outstanding blitzer, suffered a season-ending knee injury a year ago but had success as a "rush backer" in the 3-4 in the 2002 season.

Napoleon Harris and Clark will man the inside positions in the 3-4. Harris performed well at times last year but, like most of his teammates, was inconsistent against the run. Clark, like Rudd, is also a passable player.

In the 4-3, Harris will man the middle with Smith and Rudd on the outside. Harris had an outstanding rookie season in 2002 but tapered off in his second year. Smith, however, could be the X-factor because of his speed off the edge.

Defensive end DeLawrence Grant moves to linebacker to provide depth. Overall, this unit looks different than last year but replacing Romanowski's leadership will be difficult. Barton, while not the second-coming of Ted Hendricks, won't be easy to replace either.


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