Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 7/8/12

The Oakland Raiders linebacker competition is one of the most interesting battles on the team. Oakland brought in several new players to compete for jobs during training camp and the preseason. The middle linebacker position should have been a no brainer with Rolando McClain continuing to develop into the player the Raiders' drafted eight overall. However his legal issues have opened the door to a possible suspension or release which makes the competition behind him very intriguing.

“I’m looking at the linebacker position because we added so many numbers there,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said of the linebacker competition. “I want to see who jumps out, makes plays.”

McClain has started 29 games in his two seasons with the Raiders and has been productive making 99 tackles and five sacks last season. After being found guilty and sentenced to 180 days in jail for assault, as a result of allegedly firing a gun next to a man's head, McClain's status for the upcoming season is in question. He and his attorney have appealed the court sentence, but Commissioner Roger Goodell may still suspend the middle linebacker barring the results.

While McClain was tending to his legal issues, former 2010 NFL Draft sixth round pick Travis Goethel filled in at middle linebacker during some offseason workouts. Goethel missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, but did play in 8 games his rookie season. He had a very productive college career at Arizona State, but has very little middle linebacker experience in the NFL. The third year pro will be one of the busiest Raiders this training camp and preseason learning the ropes and showcasing his skills in preparation of being needed this season.

Normally, 2012 NFL Draft seventh round selections don't get much fanfare, but Raiders Nathan Stupar, out of Penn State, may need to play a major role for the team this season. Stupar is a versatile football player with the ability to play both outside and inside linebacker. He will probably fill in the role as third middle linebacker on the depth chart. He can also be a standout special team's player for Oakland. When training camp and the preseason begin, Stupar will have a full plate. Learning how to become an NFL player while trying to make the final roster and learn multiple positions will give Stupar a tough task.

With the uncertain status of McClain and the inexperience behind him, the Raiders have an interesting situation to keep an eye on during preseason and training camp. Goethel and Stupar have the ability to fill in if McClain has a prolonged absence, but their learning curve will be steep.

 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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