Shilique Calhoun’s rookie season with the Raiders was far from memorable.
He played in just 10 games before suffering an injury that ended his year. And in those games, the linebacker had just five tackles and zero sacks. It was far less production than the Raiders had hoped they would get from their third-round pick out of Michigan State. As a senior for the Spartans in 2015, Calhoun was in on 49 tackles in 13 games – 15 for loss – with 10½ sacks. The Raiders took Calhoun in part for his pass-rush skills, yet the rookie came up short.
Now, with his knee back to 100 percent following minor surgery, Calhoun is vowing to be a much different player in 2017 when he gets on the field. He’s reportedly added 20 pounds (making him about 271) to better deal with opposing blockers. Yet he believes he hasn’t lost any quickness.
In fact, he believes his frustrating experiences of 2016 make him understand the speed of the pro game much better.
“Early on it was difficult because everything was moving so fast, you had to retain the knowledge fast, you had to go out there and show you understand it as well,” Calhoun told reporters of his struggles. “But as the season went on it started to slow down and I started to become more comfortable.”
As his recognition skills sharpened, he says he “started moving a lot quicker.”
Calhoun told a writer for the Raiders website that he threw himself into the weight room this offseason to put on more muscle and weight with the blessing of head coach Jack Del Rio. Calhoun believes that will help him when he’s playing outside linebacker. He’s currently listed on the depth chart behind starter Bruce Irvin.
“The reason for gaining weight was to be able to man the edge with a certain sense of strength, as well as agility,” he said. “I still have my agility at this weight and I have a lot more strength.”
Jimmy Durkin, who covers the Raiders for the Bay Area News Group, noted on Twitter this week during the team’s organized team activities that the weight work has made a difference. Calhoun “looks noticeably bigger,” Durkin reported.
Calhoun says he wants to prove himself in his second year.
“It’s going to take focus, it’s going to take determination and it’s going to take the will to be great,” he said.