Oakland Raiders: 7 Things To Keep An Eye On Against Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Derek Carr
GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Derek Carr /
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Oakland Raiders
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – NOVEMBER 5: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons celebrate their 27-20 win over the Virginia Cavaliers at the conclusion of an NCAA football game on November 5, 2016 at BB /

Marquel Lee

Oakland’s problems at the linebacker position – specifically on the inside – are very well documented. Over the last few seasons, opposing offenses have found the chink in the armor of the Oakland defense and have exploited it mercilessly.

Oakland’s linebackers have had incredible difficulty covering the pass, which has made it easy for teams to move the chains on them. Tight ends and pass-catching backs in particular, have had field days romping through the second level of Oakland’s defense.

The Raiders have employed a number of players in an effort to plug the hole – Curtis Lofton, Neiron Ball, Malcolm Smith, Ben Heeney, and Cory James among others. Perry Riley Jr., an in-season pick up last year has been the only one over the last few seasons to have some success against both the run and the pass – but McKenzie has (thus far) opted to let him remain a free agent.

The Raiders tried to address the issue in the middle by taking Marquel Lee out of Wake Forest in the fifth round of this year’s Draft. At six-foot-three, 235 pounds, he’s got good size. But there have been some question about his speed and ability to cover receivers.

Those questions about Lee’s ability to play the middle are playing out in camp as Del Rio has expressed some concern about those very things.

"“He shows up in the run periods maybe a little more now than the pass periods, but he’s making progress.”"

Given the lack of options on the depth chart, that Lee isn’t really showing out in pass coverage should be of some concern. If he can’t get it together, he’ll be little more than a younger, more inexpensive version of the now-departed Smith.

And if the Raiders can’t find somebody to help cover the short and intermediate range passes, we may again see opposing tight ends and pass-catching backs having field days in the middle of Oakland’s defense.

Lee should get some time on the field against Arizona so the Raiders can finally start seeing what they have in him against live bodies.