Oakland Raiders Will Be Just Fine Without Obi Melifonwu For A While

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17: Shalom Luani
PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17: Shalom Luani /

The Oakland Raiders have been hit with a bit of adversity, but they’ll be just fine for a while without their prized second-round pick, given that they already have a nice piece in place.

The adversity bug has hit the Oakland Raiders a little early this year. It’s being widely reported that second-round pick Obi Melifonwu has undergone surgery for a knee issue and is being dropped onto the Injured Reserve list.

"#Raiders placed S Obi Melifonwu (2nd round) and G/T Denver Kirkland on IR. Kirkland suffered a significant injury. — Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) September 5, 2017"

And you don’t have to listen too hard to hear the collective gasping, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and general caterwaulings of anguish from the Raider Nation.

But don’t worry, folks – the Raiders will be just fine in Melifonwu’s absence. Or at least, that secondary won’t be any worse off than it is now.

Let’s face it – even before the announcement of his surgery was made, there was no guarantee he was going to play this weekend against in Tennessee anyway.

There was even less of a guarantee that even if he did see the field, that he would have the sort of impact the team wants and needs on the back end of that defense.

After all, Melifonwu has missed a lot of valuable practice time with the team throughout camp and the exhibition season. It was more than likely that his time on the field was going to be limited anyway.

Luckily, HC Jack Del Rio and DC Ken Norton Jr. already have a piece on the roster that they can plug in who can capably fill the role they’ve been envisioning for Melifonwu – Shalom Luani.

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Luani has done nothing but make plays all summer long. A seventh-round pick, most probably thought he was a long-shot to make the 53-man roster to begin with. But he made it impossible for the coaches to cut him with his overall solid play against both the run and the pass.

Though he made the final 53, he was more than likely going to have to make his bones on special teams. But with the injury to Melifonwu, Luani has the opportunity to step up, get some regular defensive snaps, make some plays, and make it hard for the coaches to justify taking him off the field.

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While perhaps not the athletic freak that Melifonwu is, Luani has the size (six-feet-one, 220 lbs.), speed, power, and instincts to play that hybrid linebacker/safety role the coaching staff had been carving out for their second-round pick.

Luani can be the tight end hunter/killer the Raiders need. He can most definitely help shut down the middle of the field and take away some of the short/intermediate range passes that have been plaguing this Raiders defense the last couple of years.

It’s an unfortunate start to Melifonwu’s career – the team and the fans have been waiting to see him get on the field to see what he can do. Melifonwu’s athleticism and physicality can be a huge asset to the back end of this Raiders defense. One they need.

But, he’s eligible to come back to the team after week eight. If he’s healed up enough from his injury to come off the IR – there is always the possibility that this injury wipes out his rookie season entirely.

Until Melifonwu returns though, whether it’s this year or next year, the Raiders have the potential solution in-house already. Luani has shown he’s got the physical and mental skills to be successful at this level. Now he just needs to prove that he actually can be the contributor the coaches believe he can be.

Luani’s body of work through the offseason has been impressive. And he should be able to step into Melifonwu’s role seamlessly — after all, he’s been doing it all summer long.

So, while it would be nice to have Melifonwu in uniform and contributing to this team, there’s no need to freak out – they’ll be just fine with Luani manning the controls for a while.