As the Raiders prepare for their exhibition opener Saturday night against the Rams, the team’s starting trio of linebackers is expected to be a veteran group.
In the team’s first depth chart, the Raiders list holdover Tahir Whitehead as the starter on the strong side, with newcomers Brandon Marshall on the weak side and Vontaze Burfict in the middle.
Over the rest of training camp and exhibition games, that could change, of course. Things are fluid. But as Evan Groat of SB Nation noted this week, it also means competition should be fierce among younger linebackers such as Marquel Lee, Nicholas Morrow and Jason Cabinda to crack that lineup or earn status as the first player off the bench.
For now, at least, Morrow appears to be the leader.
Morrow, an undrafted free agent signed by Oakland in 2017, played all 16 games for the Raiders each of the past two seasons (much of it on special teams), and started five games each of those seasons. In 2018 he was in on 43 tackles with five for loss, a sack, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
This offseason and in training camp practices, Morrow has played well.
"Morrow, to me, has stood out," said Gruden this week, according to Groat. "Morrow is playing really well. He is finding the ball and he is fast and I’m really impressed with Nick."
As Groat noted, Morrow is slightly undersized from most NFL linebackers at about 225 pounds, but is quick and good in pass-coverage situations. The addition of Burfict and Marshall has meant that Morrow’s chance at starting may be limited now, but his chance for getting better is improved.
"I’m just taking a step back and learning from those dudes," Morrow told Groat.
Morrow has faced long odds before, making the Raiders as an undrafted prospect from Division III Greenville. But as a rookie, he not only made the team but was in on 57 tackles and had four passes defensed. It’s likely he’ll not only make the roster again, but could get significant playing time in 2019.