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.
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.”