ALAMEDA – The Raiders are on a linebacker hunt. They have to sign somebody soon because they essentially have no backups.
They have become reliant on Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow to play virtually every defensive snap in each of the last three games since Vontaze Burfict got suspended for the year. That and Marquel Lee landing on IR after Week 3 made things tough on the position group.
They signed Dakota Allen off the Rams practice squad and promoted Justin Phillips off the practice squad, but those additions haven't done much defensively. Allen was a healthy scratch and Phillips suffered a knee injury that will prematurely end his season.
"We're struggling at linebacker right now with Vontaze Burfict's suspension and Marquel Lee being on IR," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "We're probably going to be looking to shore up the linebacker position over the 48 hours."
The Raiders will work some linebackers out on Tuesday, with the trade market another avenue to acquire a linebacker. The NFL trade deadline is coming up on Tuesday afternoon.
"We're going to try to bring in another linebacker," Gruden said. "We have Dakota Allen, who didn't play yesterday, also on the roster. We're thin. We have to add another one. Hopefully Whitehead can be ready to play. He came out of it a little nicked up as well."
Adding someone in time for Wednesday practice increases physical depth but doesn't decrease their reliance on Whitehead and Morrow for Sunday's upcoming home game against Detroit.
While Lee is working out extensively on the side and seems in good shape after a Week 3 ankle injury, he isn't eligible to play until Week 13. He can't practice until after Week 10. Gruden said he would be the Raiders' second player designated to return off injured reserve. Cornerback Isaiah Johnson is the other.
"It's not just about when he's ready," Gruden said. "It's also about when the rules allow him to come back up. Hopefully we can get him back up soon."
The Raiders are officially in survival mode at the position, needing warm bodies to fill out a depth chart. There's little that new signings can do to help right away, so they'll need Whitehead and Morrow to keep it up and alter some schematics to avoid using a third linebacker as they have in recent weeks. Lamarcus Joyner has been particularly active, as a slot cornerback who can work farther inside as well.
Expect the Raiders to be active adding replacements, leaving it up to assistant coaches to get guys up to speed schematically as quickly as possible.