Oakland Raiders vs. AFC West: Linebackers

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December 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) rushes against Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler (84) during the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

3. Oakland Raiders

As mentioned in the opening, the loss of Nick Roach in last year’s preseason set off a terrible chain reaction for the Raiders. As a result, the team’s lack of depth was exposed, guys were forced to play positions they had little to no experience with, and opposing teams took advantage of it.

Realizing this, Reggie McKenzie addressed the issue decisively – by bringing in about a hundred linebackers this offseason.

Joining Oakland this year are Malcolm Smith, who is reuniting with DC Ken Norton Jr., Ray Ray Armstrong, who is emerging and has the coaching staff excited, newcomers Ben Heeney, Neiron Ball, Neiron Ball, Chase Williams, John Shirley,and of course,Oakland’s most important offseason acquisition, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who has a long track record of success playing in the middle.

And of course, let’s not forget standout Khalil Mack, who in his first season proved to be an absolutely disruptive for of nature and is ready to set the league on fire in this, his second season. Also returning is 2013 draft pick Sio Moore, who has battled some injuries but has showed tremendous potential and flashes of just how good he can be.

The Raiders have a strong, athletic, and fearsome linebackers group. It’s a group being molded and shaped by Norton Jr., and Jack Del Rio who both played at a very high level and are very capable of getting the most out of their players.

Oakland’s linebackers group is going to be deep and it will be tough. While they may still not yet be on par with division rivals Denver and Kansas City – at least on paper – the potential is there for the Raiders to have a tremendous group of linebackers. It’s a group that should finish in the upper part of the league rankings.

Though a bit of a liability last season, this year’s linebackers group will be able to stop the run, defend the pass, and even get after the quarterback. And it will definitely be the strength of this Raiders’ defense.

Next: Denver Broncos