Raiders Top Five Opponents by Position: Outside Linebackers

Jairo Alvarado

After ranking the top five middle linebackers, we move over to close out the last segment on the top five linebackers the Raiders will face in 2020. 

The outside linebackers are a team's worst nightmare. They can line up on the edge and rush the quarterback, they can find gaps and stop the run, and they can drop off and play pass coverage.

The versatility of the outside linebackers is why they are among the most valuable position players in the NFL.

As we start on who our top five outside linebackers are, note some of these players are still considered linebackers as they come off the edge generally if they line up on a 3-4 defense (three defensive lineman and four linebackers).

Thus far, none of our top five have opted out of the NFL season, and let's hope it stays like that.

At No. 5, we start with the Miami Dolphins' new addition on defense, Kyle Van Noy. The former Patriot is coming off a stellar defensive team in New England, where he put up substantial numbers, rejuvenating his career as an outside linebacker/edge rusher. In 2019, Van Noy recorded 40 solo tackles, seven sacks, and three forced fumbles. He brings his talents to Miami, which spent lots of cash this offseason on defense, bringing in players like Van Noy and Byron Jones. We will see if all that spending is worth it when they see the Raiders offense on their Week 16 match-up in Las Vegas.

Hate to have him at No. 4, but as much as he proves doubters wrong, he is still considered an underrated player. He's the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts. Recently ranked No. 50 among the NFL's top 100 players, Leonard is coming off a season where PFF had him as the eighth-highest graded linebacker. In his second season in the NFL last year, Leonard recorded 75 tackles, five interceptions, six sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Raiders meeting against the Colts in Week 14 will see Leonard, but they will also welcome quarterback Philip Rivers to Las Vegas. It will surely be a fun one to watch.

At No. 3, we have the most improved player on defense, Shaquil Barrett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you don't know who he is, you will soon find out when the Raiders host the Bucs in Week 7. At No. 32, Barrett is another Buccaneer who made the NFL's list of top 100 players. Barrett led the NFL last season with 20 sacks and came in third with six forced fumbles. Talking about an underrated player, Barrett exceeded expectations and made a name for himself. With Barrett on the watchlist, he will hope to lead the NFL in sacks once again this season.

By a close race, Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints comes in as the second-best outside linebacker the Raiders will match up against this season. The Saints' leader on defense also was listed in the players' top 100, at No. 67. Davis is the highest-graded linebacker by PFF, leading the top five in most categories including run defense, pass defense and coverage. In 2019, Davis recorded the eighth most tackles in league with 97 and added an interception and four sacks. Davis shows us how loaded the Saints' roster is, as they prepare for another run at the Super Bowl. Before all that happens, they have to go through Las Vegas in Week 2.

At the top of our list is one of the Raider Nation's favorite rivals, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. You can't take away how good the former Super Bowl MVP is, despite taking a step back last season. He had trouble against the Raiders last year. Tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown kept him in check, but that year is behind us.

Miller was voted No.26 in the NFL's top 100 players and he will try to come back into the top 10. Miller might have only recorded nine sacks a year ago, after recording 16 in 2018, but according to PFF, Miller graded out with the highest run defense grade by any linebacker at 90.0. Miller is a player you need to keep your eye on or he will create havoc on opposing offenses. The Raiders will meet Miller and the Broncos in Week 10 and 17 this.

Five of the best linebackers in the game will face the Raiders and each with different ball skills. Let's see how the Raiders offense matches up against them this year.

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