ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Cory James, the Oakland Raiders' sixth-round draft pick in 2016, and Tyrell Adams, who was promoted from the practice squad in late November, split first-team reps at middle linebacker during Tuesday’s OTA practice.
Ben Heeney is still working his way back from an ankle injury that ended his 2016 season after four games.
So yeah, you could say middle linebacker remains a position of need for the Raiders at best, a glaring weakness at worst.
“The guys that can go [practice] will go, and the guys that can’t are going to work at it,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said.
“So we’re just being smart with guys and we’ll bring them along as we think is wise and go from there.”
Even as the likes of Perry Riley Jr., who shored up the Raiders' defense by starting 11 games after being signed off the street last season, and Rey Maualuga, an eight-year veteran, are still available on the free-agent market.
Hence James and Tyrell working with the starting defense in the second of 10 OTA practices.
“The guys that get the opportunities need to take full advantage of it,” Del Rio said. “So certainly, that is the case, and our young draft pick’s right in the mix as well.”
Yes, Marquel Lee, taken in the fifth round out of Wake Forest, was getting second- and third-team reps as well.
“As a linebacker, you have to know everything,” Lee, who had 7.5 sacks with 105 tackles (20 for loss) last season for the Demon Deacons, said during the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month.
“You have to know the ins and outs of the defense. That’s what I plan to learn, coming in here this rookie minicamp and going forward.”
Still, the focus this week was on James and Adams.
James was one of three rookies to play in all 16 games for Oakland last season. He started five games and had 48 tackles, including 15 at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, with a forced fumble and two stuffs.
Adams, who has also spent time on the practice squads of the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, was signed to the Raiders practice squad Oct. 5 and promoted to the active squad before Week 12. He played only on special teams in six games, plus the playoff loss at the Houston Texans.
“They can both run,” Del Rio said. “I think with Cory, he’s a year in the system, a little more comfortable. He should take a big step forward.”