Oakland Raiders Camp Battles: Outside Linebacker

One of the greatest weaknesses last season was the linebackers. A mid-season trade for Aaron Curry helped and he became a starter immediately, but there wasn't much at the position. Kamerion Wimbley was solid, but a much better pass rusher with his hand in the dirt than linebacker.

Quentin Groves played well on special teams, but his lackluster play as the starter prompted the trade for Curry. The 2011 linebacker group was poorly constructed and lacked depth and scheme versatility. When Reggie McKenzie was hired, he immediately recognized a need for linebackers and completely revamped the position. Only Curry remains from the last season's 53-man roster and the Raiders added five outside linebackers via the draft and free agency.

The Raiders will deploy a new defensive scheme in 2012, one that includes both three and four linebacker formations and blitzing. Curry's position appears secure for 2012, but beyond that will depend on his play. The starting strong-side linebacker position is open for competition and the Raiders could use a nickel rusher to emerge from this group.

One of the many one-year contracts handed out by McKenzie this offseason was to former Indianapolis Colts' linebacker Philip Wheeler. The Raiders had to bring in a viable option and Wheeler instantly became the favorite to start opposite Curry at strong-side linebacker. Wheeler was a quietly strong run defender for the Colts last season, but the Raiders will push him with Miles Burris.

Miles Burris had great college production as a pass rusher at San Diego State and the Raiders drafted him in the fourth round of April's draft. Burris could see time at both outside linebacker spots and inside. The Raiders might use him like a poor man's Von Miller. Burris doesn't have a lot of experience dropping into coverage and he'll have to work on that area of his game to push for a starting job.

Undrafted rookie Kaelin Burnett should compete ...

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