By adding dynamic rookie Khalil Mack to the mix last month, the Raiders expected they’d have a much better linebacking corps in 2014.
With veteran Nick Roach in the middle, Mack on one side and second-year pro Sio Moore on the other – and with 2013 starter Kevin Burnett also in the mix – the Raiders’ linebacking group figured to be a more explosive and wide-ranging unit.
But now, with full-squad minicamp over, the Raiders’ unit suddenly looks even better with the return of Miles Burris.
Burris, almost a forgotten man earlier this offseason, was a starter as a rookie two seasons ago but then was sidelined for most of 2013 because of a knee injury.
Now completely healthy, Burris was getting plenty of playing time with the first-team defensive unit at weakside linebacker in minicamp and now may be pushing Moore for the starting job at that position.
“Everything we’ve seen so far out of Miles this offseason has indicated that he’s healthy and ready to go,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told reporters. “He had a really good year for us two years ago. Unfortunately, last year he was injured most of the season and we really didn’t have the Miles Burris we think he’s capable of being. He’s had a good offseason and he’s put himself in the mix.”
Burris, a fourth-round pick from San Diego State in 2012, played in all 16 games as a rookie, with 15 starts and had 100 tackles, 1½ sacks, an interception and fumble recovery. At 6-foot-2 and 241 pounds, he showed good quickness and range.
Now Burris is healthy and eager to get back on track, and the coaching staff likes what it sees.
“Miles tries to be exactly right and Miles tries to be physical, and he is both of those things,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver told Josh Dubow of the Associated Press. “He played well as a rookie and we would have loved to obviously have him last year, but we’re excited about where he is and where he’s going.”
His re-emergence could signal a very fierce competition in training camp, between Burris, Moore and Burnett – which should make the Raiders a better defensive unit overall this coming season.
And Burris is eager to get back into a game again.
“I never missed a game in my life and I’ve been playing since fifth grade,” he told reporters. “But it (the past season) taught me some great things and the Lord taught me some patience through it. Overall it’s going to be a great blessing in my life, I know it.”