For the past several years, the Las Vegas Raiders have struggled at linebacker. They kept trying to put a band-aid on the issue, but could never find a long-term solution. The team finally decided to switch gears this offseason and invest heavily in the position. The most notable move they made was to give a big contract to former Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowler Cory Littleton.
He’s been one of the most consistent linebackers in the NFL. The move to replace 2019 starter Tahir Whitehead with Littleton was named one of the biggest position upgrades in the NFL by ESPN’s Mike Clay:
The Raiders’ defense will have a new look in the “Back 7” this season, and it will be anchored by Littleton. The 26-year-old had been an absolute machine for the Rams the past two seasons. Littleton is the only player in the NFL with at least 125 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks each of the past two seasons. Only one other player (Darius Leonard) has done that even once during the span. Littleton will be an every-down player at linebacker alongside Nick Kwiatkoski, with Damon Arnette, Damarious Randall, Jeff Heath and Maliek Collins among the other newcomers to the first defense to hit the Las Vegas strip.
Littleton is poised to be the best linebacker the Raiders have had in years. His ability to be more than just a run stopper should bring an entirely new dynamic to the team’s defense.
Linebacker an Area of Strength for Raiders?
Littleton will get most of the buzz for the Raiders heading into the season due to his status as a former Pro Bowler. However, the team is also really excited about Nick Kwiatkowski. He doesn’t have the same pedigree as Littleton and hasn’t started a lot of games, but the potential is definitely there.
One thing that both men thrive at is defending against the pass. That’s huge for the Raiders as their linebackers have been notoriously bad against tight ends. Though they only made two notable additions at the position this offseason, linebacker should go from being the team’s biggest weaknesses to one of its biggest strengths.
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Is Javin White a Player to Watch?
The Raiders did add a linebacker in the draft in Tanner Muse, but he wasn’t the only interesting rookie the team was able to scoop up. Javin White out of UNLV wasn’t able to get drafted, but his versatility is very intriguing. According to Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, White is the most exciting undrafted free agent the Raiders found:
Undrafted UNLV linebacker Javin White has the potential to further improve Las Vegas’ second-level defense.
As a former wideout and defensive back, White has the coverage instincts and ball skills to be a difference-maker either as a rotational linebacker or as a complement to Littleton. He should also add a competitive edge to the Raiders defense.
Littleton was also an undrafted player coming into the NFL so not getting drafted doesn’t mean White isn’t good. Kwiatkowski used to play safety and he could help the rookie with his development. White fits in really well with the Raiders’ new band of versatile linebackers and could end up being an impact player in a couple of years.