State of the Raiders: Linebackers/Secondary

S&BI's Mike Wagaman's series on the Oakland Raiders game plan to remake the team continues with a look at the linebackers and defensive backs.

LINEBACKERS

Looking back: Consider this fact — the Raiders' best linebacker in 2009 turned out to be a guy who spent the first 10 games with his hand on the ground as a promising pass-rushing defensive end. Trevor Scott replaced weakside linebacker Thomas Howard and became an immediate force with five of his seven sacks, 24 tackles (eight for losses) and six quarterback hurries. Howard was moved to the strongside while Kirk Morrison once again led Oakland and finished tied for sixth in the NFL with 133 tackles.

Grade: C+

Our plan: They hit a home run with the Scott move, and it's fair to say Howard played well after moving to the strongside. The question is what the team will do with Morrison. Remember, the Raiders attempted to replace him with Ricky Brown in training camp. With the eighth overall pick there's a good chance Davis could grab Alabama's Rolando McClain or Florida's Brandon Spikes. Both are terrific prospects who project well into the NFL, especially McClain who has great size and speed to become an impact player.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Looking back: All in all it wasn't a bad year for the secondary. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl, though teams challenged him more than in years past. Safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch both played better than expected and could finally have provided an answer to what has been an ongoing problem for many seasons. Chris Johnson was average at best while Stanford Routt had his fair share of problems as the nickel back. Grade: B-

Our plan: The foundation seems to be solid with Asomugha and the promising duo of Huff and Branch, so it's not like a radical makeover is needed. Teams went after Johnson repeatedly and had a lot of success, though CJ had his moments. If they can upgrade through free agency, it's worth going for particularly if they can get a better tackler than Johnson.


Coming up next: Special Teams

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