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Raiders linebacker Miles Burris (right) brings down Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in a game this past season. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
With former first-round pick Rolando McClain on his way out the door, the Raiders will be looking elsewhere for a middle linebacker in 2013.
It’s possible McClain’s replacement could already be on the roster in Miles Burris, the fourth-round draft pick from San Diego State who started every game of his rookie season in Oakland.
Burris, who played on the outside in 2012 – taking the position that originally was going to be Aaron Curry’s -- showed energy, an ability to learn and an instinct for getting to the ball carrier in his first NFL season.
He was third on the team in tackles with 138, had 1½ sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, with good lateral speed, he seems to fit more into the mold of an outside linebacker, but there are those inside the organization that have been reported to be thinking that Burris could move inside to the middle linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense, reports Paul Gutierrez with our partners at CSNBayArea.com.
Head coach Dennis Allen told the Associated Press late in the season that he and his staff were considering the option for 2013.
Allen said the Raiders were impressed by the way Burris came into camp, took on the unexpected opportunity of starting in place of Curry and made the most of it.
“You don’t anticipate a fourth-round draft choice out of San Diego State starting for you the whole season,” Allen told U-T San Diego last month. “But he earned the right.”
One of Burris’s teammates, defensive back Michael Huff, said Burris brought a high-energy ethic to the team.
“On every play he’s fired-up, intense, just running around making plays,” Huff told U-T San Diego. “You can tell he’s a young guy who’s just hungry and wants to go out there and make plays.”
Burris told the newspaper that making the adjustment to the NFL game was hard at first.
“I think the biggest change was probably the speed,” he told the newspaper. “Everyone is bigger, faster and stronger, just like at every level when you go up. But it’s the speed of the game and it’s a lot more mental. You have to know where everyone else is lined up on the field. Communication is huge.”
Apparently, the Raiders were happy with his progress. Now with middle linebacker McClain expected to be released or sent elsewhere this offseason, the Oakland coaching staff knows it has something to build on in Burris. Either he’ll be starting a second season at weakside linebacker or he’ll get a chance to play in the middle. The draft and what type of moves the Raiders make in free agency will likely produce a much-changed linebacker corps next season. Burris, however, will be a part of it one way or another.
“He’s the type of player that we’re looking for,” said Allen. “He loves football, he’s wiling to work and he’s got a team attitude. Those are the characteristics of the guys that we’re really looking for, and he fits that mold to a ‘T.’ ”