Tahir Whitehead was signed this past offseason to upgrade the Raiders’ linebacking corps, a major weakness.
So far, that move has produced mixed results.
Whitehead, 28, was coming off back-to-back 100-tackle seasons for the Detroit Lions. The combination of his experience, athleticism and positive attitude and energy were cited by head coach Jon Gruden during training camp.
“He’s really a good player,” said Gruden. “And when your best players are your hardest workers and your most energetic people, it’s a good thing. So he’s brought a lot.”
But halfway through his first season in Oakland, Whitehead’s performance has been disappointing for a 1-7 team that also has been weak across all aspects.
Whitehead, the starter at weakside linebacker, has been especially vulnerable as a pass defender. According to Matt Schneidman of the Bay Area News Group, Whitehead has been good as a run defender but so bad against the pass that he labeled Whitehead as the team’s least valuable player at this season’s halfway point.
Schneidman pointed out that the Pro Football Focus analytic website reports Whitehead has been targeted 26 times in pass defense and allowed 23 catches for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s allowed a perfect opponent passer rating of 158.3 while hardly ever coming off the field. He’s played 513 of a possible 516 snaps on defense.
Overall, Whitehead remains on track for another 100-tackle season, with 57 combined tackles in eight games, including seven for loss. In fact, he had four tackles for loss against the 49ers just last week and was in on seven tackles to lead his team.
Gruden, in fact, still believes in Whitehead, despite what the passing numbers say.
“You know what, he’s been a good linebacker,” said Gruden. “He’s been a good nickel linebacker in the league for a long time. I think when you look at the kind of throws that have been complete (against him), you have to sometimes take a look at them. Are they quick screens? Are they screen passes?”
The Raiders will return to action Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.