On paper, the Raiders linebacking corps looks significantly better for 2015 than it did a year ago.
On one side, Khalil Mack is coming off a terrific rookie season. In the middle, veteran free-agent addition Curtis Lofton should be a notable upgrade from Miles Burris. The Raiders also have former Seahawk Malcolm Smith, Ray Ray Armstrong – who’s had a solid offseason – and rookie draft picks Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball for depth.
And then there’s Sio Moore.
Moore, heading into his third season, is the incumbent starter on the outside opposite Mack.
In his first two seasons, Moore has been an enthusiastic, wide-ranging linebacker who has made his share of big plays and mistakes. Over his first two seasons he’s started 22 games. In 2014, he was in on 89 tackles in just 11 games before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a hip injury that required offseason surgery. That procedure and rehab kept him from participating in organized team activities. He finally was back on the field for the full-squad minicamp this spring.
In his absence, Armstrong took snaps with the first-team defense and received plenty of praise from teammates and new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. for his play.
So, going into training camp that begins in late July, Moore could be pushed by Armstrong and the veteran Smith for his starting spot.
If Moore is healthy, he’s the favorite. And after being forced to the sidelines last season and having to sit out recent workouts, he’s eager to get back on the field and reassert himself.
“I’m making sure that my body and my mind is mentally ready to play until February,” he told Rebecca Corman, a writer for the Raiders’ website.
Moore told Corman that he’s been working with linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and Norton to refine his techniques. Often during his first two seasons, Moore seemed to play with too much emotion – even losing control at times.
That certainly was most evident in November when Moore came up with a big quarterback sack late in a victory over the Chiefs, but then celebrated so long the Raiders almost were assessed a delay-of-game penalty.
“A guy like Coach Sal coming in, he helps to fine tune,” Moore told Corman. “That’s the type of coach he is. He’s trying to fine tune you to be the best that you can, to be as productive as you can, he looks for that.”