Signing free-agent linebacker Tahir Whitehead in March was a big piece of the Raiders’ plan to upgrade their defense.
The former Detroit Lions standout – coming off back-to-back 100-tackle seasons – will be plugged in to Oakland’s 4-3 scheme at weakside linebacker and give the team a high-motor, experienced veteran.
At 28, Whitehead is in the prime of his career, and he wants to lead by example by playing a physical, aggressive brand of football that helps lead to big stops and turnovers.
Said Whitehead after signing with his new team, “My goal is really just to help the team in any way possible. That’s the goal for me. To go out there as a linebacker, you want to make a lot of tackles, just doing everything in my power to make sure we can turn things around and get back to playing Raiders football.”
The former fifth-round pick from Temple in 2012 was a Lions starter since 2014. He’s been a tackling machine, with totals of 91, 132 and 110 in the full seasons he’s compiled in Detroit.
Whitehead is expected to give the Raiders a high-performance leader in the linebacking corps, along with Derrick Johnson, the former Chiefs standout who's taking over at middle linebacker.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says Whitehead brings a winner’s mindset to the defense.
“He’s been great,” Gruden told reporters Monday. “He brings a lot of energy to our team. He’s upbeat, positive, competitive. He wants to win in a walk-through, he wants to win in practice, he wants to beat you at a game of cards on the airplane. …
“He’s really a good player. And when your best players are your hardest workers and your most energetic people, it’s a good thing. So he’s brought us a lot.”
Last season with Detroit, Whitehead was given a grade of 79.6 by the analytic website Pro Football Focus, which ranked 25th overall in the NFL.
The Raiders and Whitehead will next see action Friday night when they take on the visiting Green Bay Packers at O.co Coliseum. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.