Nicholas Morrow, Tahir Whitehead used to change in Raiders' LB corps


Nicholas Morrow, Tahir Whitehead used to change in Raiders' LB corps

ALAMEDA – Brandon Marshall returned to the Raiders this week, roughly two full months after he got cut. The veteran linebacker nearly made the team back in September but fell victim to some roster math and questions about whether he still had the explosiveness required of the position.

The Raiders have turned several linebackers over since then, with the spin cycle hitting top speed following Vontaze Burfict’s season-long suspension starting in Week 4.

Marshall thought he’d get a call then. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t.

“I did think [I’d get a call],” Marshall said. “I was wondering about it, but they ended up bring in some younger guys. It’s cool. It’s their team, but they eventually did bring me back, and I’m excited about it.”

Adding Marshall now adds a different dimension to the linebacker room. While newcomer Will Compton still needs to absorb a ton, he’s a veteran and can pick things up quickly.

Marshall and Compton enter just as Justin Phillips was waived with an injury settlement and the Dakota Allen experiment was ended.

Those guys were the first replacement wave, added after Marquel Lee was placed on injured reserve and Burfict essentially was banned in an unprecedented move for an on-field action.

Nicholas Morrow and Tahir Whitehead have learned to adapt to new folks in the meeting room.

“It changes every time somebody leaves and somebody else comes in,” Morrow said. “It was obviously different before and after Vontaze’s situation. We brought in some new and younger guys, and it felt almost like we were going back to training camp. There was a lot more teaching and streamlining things.”

The Raiders were preparing backups. They have become completely reliant on Morrow and Whitehead, who have played virtually every snap since Burfict was first ejected in Week 4. Phillips played some defense against Green Bay, but he wasn’t terribly effective.

Morrow and Whitehead have formed a solid partnership on the interior, where the Raiders almost exclusively remain in two linebacker sets.

“We’ve been playing together for a while and we understand each other,” Morrow said. “I believe in Tahir and trust every call he makes. I think he believes in me, and we definitely lean on each other.”

Bringing Marshall back has eased this latest transition. While Morrow and Whitehead still will be primary contributors, the room isn’t doing as much review as before.

“I think it’s a little bit different in regards that we have a couple more veteran players in there that have played and understand concepts of coverage and those type of things rather than younger guys that haven’t really been through that, so that’s good,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “And both Brandon and Will have picked up the defense really good. Obviously, Brandon has seen it all spring and training camp, but Will has done a really good job. Both of them are smart guys.”

Marshall’s role won’t be huge in Sunday’s clash with Detroit, but his balky knee responded well to the time away from football and he hopes to get back in the mix defensively. Lee can return after Week 12 at the earliest, and having some quality depth, or at least the option to play three linebackers at once would be a luxury rarely afforded in recent games.

[RELATED: Playoffs?! Long road trip showed Raiders what is possible]

Morrow says he and Whitehead are ready for anything, even continued high-volume Sundays, but certainly welcome the veteran help.

“At this point, we’re comfortable with all the change,” Morrow said. “We just move on and adapt and work our tails off and prepare as best we can.

“It’s definitely a unique situation, but this is the NFL. You have to adapt. We’ve had guys coming in and out, but it’s nice to have ‘B-Marsh’ back in the room. He’s a great asset.”

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted an expanded class in honor of the NFL’s 100th season, providing an opportunity to right some wrongs from way, way back.

They formed a blue-ribbon panel to select a larger group for induction, including 10 seniors who played at least 25 years ago, two coaches and three contributors.

But that still was not enough to get Cliff Branch in the Hall.

The legendary Raiders receiver was not included among the inductees, a disappointing turn for a Raiders franchise still mourning Branch’s loss.

Branch passed away last summer at the age of 71. Making the Hall of Fame proved elusive for the three-time Super Bowl champion and dangerous deep threat known for elite athleticism and speed.

[RELATEDBranch leaves lasting NFL legacy, earned Hall of Fame induction]

He had 501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns, averaging 17.3 yards per reception. Those totals match some of his contemporaries who have been enshrined, but his case has yet to be validated with a positive vote.

This was Branch’s best chance to get in. Now he’ll be reliant on the senior committee, which nominates one or two older players for enshrinement every year. Quarterback Ken Stabler was the last Raider inducted by the senior committee in 2016.

Roger Craig, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991, also was not selected.

The centennial class of enshrinees will be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by five modern-era players who will be elected the day before Super 54 in Miami.

Here is the complete list of inductees selected by the blue-ribbon panel as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Class that consists of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches:


Bill Cowher – 1992-2006 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 (Dallas Cowboys(, 1996-99 (Miami Dolphins)


Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 (NFL Films)
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 (NFL)
George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 (Baltimore Colts), 1975-78 (Miami Dolphins), 1979-1997 (New York Giants), 1998-2001 (NFL)


Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 (Philadelphia Eagles), 1984 (Dallas Cowboys)
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 (Chicago Bears)
Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 (Green Bay Packers)
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 (Dallas Cowboys)
Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 (New York Jets), 1977 (Los Angeles Rams)
Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 (Detroit Lions)
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Duke Slater, T – 1922 (Milwaukee Badgers), 1922-25 (Rock Island Independents), 1926-1931 (Chicago Cardinals)
Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 (Cleveland Browns AAFC/NFL)
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 (Chicago Bears)

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

Brentson Buckner's time with the Raiders appears to be over after only one season. 

NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported Tuesday that the Raiders have fired Buckner and will name Rod Marinelli as their new defensive line coach. As Trotter pointed out, the Raiders improved tremendously under Buckner in 2019, improving their sack total by 19 compared to the previous season. 

Buckner reacted to the news later Tuesday afternoon.

While the Raiders vastly improved their sack numbers, they still finished the regular season tied for 24th in the NFL. But fifth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby finished the season with 10 sacks and 14 QB hits this season as a rookie, and there's no doubt Buckner played a large role in Crosby's fast transition to the NFL.

Marinelli served as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator since the 2014 season. He coached the team's D-line the year before. 

[RELATED: Gruden, Mayock spotted at East-West Shrine Bowl practice]

The Cowboys ended 2019 with 39 sacks, good for 19th in the league.

Coach Jon Gruden's decision to fire Buckner as one year in Silver and Black surely comes as a surprise.