Why Curtis Lofton Is Oakland Raiders’ Most Important New Starter

A lot of things went wrong for the Oakland Raiders defense in 2014. But of all of those things, the worst one occurred before the season even started.

The Oakland defense looked to be set at linebacker. With two stud playmakers on the outside and a steadying presence in the middle in the form of Nick Roach, the linebackers were primed to be the defense's strongest unit.

But a season-ending head injury to Roach in the preseason stopped this unit from reaching its potential. The entire defense—not just the linebackers—never recovered from this loss.

The Raiders tried using a few different players to fill the gaping hole left in the defense, but nothing worked. The most notable of these potential solutions came in the form of Miles Burris, who turned into a popular scapegoat for the defense's all-around poor performance.

Burris, a natural weak-side linebacker, isn't a great player, but he's also not as bad as he looked while playing out of position in the middle. His struggles were a sign of both how difficult it is to play middle linebacker in the NFL and how important the position is to the performance of the defense overall.

Oakland addressed this issue by adding veteran Curtis Lofton this offseason. He's an experienced and proven middle linebacker, which means he understands what it takes to be successful at the position.



Including the playoffs, Lofton hasn't missed a single game since entering the league in 2008, having played in a total of 117 games. That experience is invaluable, especially for an Oakland linebacking corps that is still very young.

When it comes to the linebacker position, the Raiders are set on the outside. Sio Moore is an excellent all-around linebacker, and Khalil Mack is very close to turning into a legitimate superstar. They're both very good, but they're also both young and still learni...

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