Training camp outlook: Linebackers

One story in a series, looking at position breakdowns for the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA on July 28. Today - a look at linebackers:

Much like defensive tackles and ends, the outlook of this position largely depends on whether or not the Oakland Raiders decide to stick with the 3-4 as their primary front seven. That scheme, while proven it can work for other teams, was a miserable failure in Oakland last season and must be the complete opposite if the Raiders want a chance to get to the postseason.

Most people seem to think that the 3-4 is ill-suited for the Raiders because the linebacking unit is hard-pressed to be rated as average. The 3-4, however, might work if Danny Clark builds off his outstanding 2004 season and if free agent signee Jay Foreman can stay healthy.

Much was made over the big splash free agent signings that did not work out for Oakland. Clark, however, was a solid find after coming to the Raiders as a free agent from Jacksonville. Not many knew about Clark before the season but he was Oakland's leading tackler.

Foreman, who has enjoyed a pretty solid six-year career in Buffalo and Houston, is capable of playing outside linebacker but has mostly made his mark on the inside. The Raiders are also high on third-round draft pick Kirk Morrison, who at worst could see solid playing time at special teams. Tim Johnson's meal ticket is special teams but can fill in for a few downs at linebacker.

Outside linebacker, however, is a concern. Tyler Brayton moved from defensive end to linebacker but looked out of place in doing such. Sam Williams showed promise in his second season a year ago but has also been too brittle to stay healthy. Travian Smith and DeLawrence Grant have some ability but have been either injury prone or inconsistent.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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