Oakland Raiders

Raiders training camp newcomers: Linebackers

Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney poses in the bust gallery during a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on June 24, in Canton, Ohio, as part of the NFL Rookies Symposium.
Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney poses in the bust gallery during a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on June 24, in Canton, Ohio, as part of the NFL Rookies Symposium. The Associated Press

From high-profile additions to NFL journeymen, The Bee provides a primer to the new players jockeying for position in training camp. Get to know the new faces at two position groups each day for both the 49ers and Raiders. Rosters are cut to 75 players Sept. 1 and 53 players Sept. 5.

The Raiders’ linebacker trio of Miles Burris, Sio Moore and Khalil Mack were some of the team’s most productive tacklers. All except Burris are returning, but the team has brought in seven players hoping to build depth at what looks like a strong position.

Will one of the newcomers be able to crack the starting lineup, or will they just be used for special teams? That should be answered by preseason’s end.

Key returners: Sio Moore, Khalil Mack

Key departures: Miles Burris (waived due to injury)

The newcomers

Neiron Ball | 6-foot-2 | 236 pounds

Experience: Rookie (Florida)

Last year: The senior played nine games, recording 49 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He missed the Gators’ last three games with a knee injury.

The skinny: Ball has beaten the odds several times, including the loss of both parents before he was 10 and undergoing brain surgery in 2011, according to NFL.com. The fifth-round draft choice is a “versatile linebacker with good play speed and a motor that teams look for.”

Ben Heeney | 6-foot | 231 pounds

Experience: Rookie (Kansas)

Last year: The senior had a team-leading 127 tackles (12 for loss), 11/2 sacks and an interception for the Jayhawks.

The skinny: NFL.com says the fifth-round draft pick is an “undersized inside linebacker with a big motor and willingness to take chances” but “lacks the athleticism to recover from mistakes in the running game and is too tight to cover in space against the pass.”

Curtis Lofton | 6-foot | 241 pounds

Experience: Eight years (Oklahoma)

Last year: Lofton had 145 total tackles for New Orleans.

The skinny: Lofton has proved his durability, as he has not missed a regular-season game in his career. Only once – in his rookie year, when he had 94 tackles – has he failed to record at least 118 tackles.

Horace Miller | 6-foot-1 | 247 pounds

Experience: Two years (UTEP)

Last year: Miller was on Seattle and Carolina’s roster last season but never played in a game for either team.

The skinny: An honorable mention in Conference USA as a junior in 2012, he went undrafted and has yet to find a permanent home in the NFL.

Josh Shirley | 6-foot-2 | 234 pounds

Experience: Rookie (UNLV)

Last year: The senior had 20 total tackles and two sacks in 13 games for the Runnin’ Rebels.

The skinny: Josh isn’t the only Shirley with NFL background. His older brother, Jason, was drafted in the fifth round by Cincinnati in 2008.

Malcolm Smith | 6-foot | 226 pounds

Experience: Five years (USC)

Last year: Smith had 38 total tackles for Seattle.

The skinny: With Seattle, Smith was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, a 43-8 victory over Denver. Oakland will hope signing a former Super Bowl MVP works out better than a past acquisition (see Larry Brown).

Chase Williams | 6-foot-2 | 215 pounds

Experience: Rookie (Virginia Tech)

Last year: The fifth-year senior had 72 total tackles (nine for loss) and forced a fumble in nine games for the Hokies.

The skinny: The son of St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (known for being suspended during New Orleans’ “Bountygate” scandal), Chase is a longshot to make the team.

  Comments