Raiders’ Tanner Muse ‘getting a good look’ at OLB due to his speed, athleticism

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When the Raiders had three picks in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, general manager Mike Mayock said that if he did his job correctly, each selection could yield a starting player.

Mayock likely wished he hadn’t said that after the Raiders abruptly traded one of those picks, wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr., before Bowden played a snap for Las Vegas.

Another 2020 third-rounder, WR Bryan Edwards, is indeed slated to start in 2021, as he was last season. But Edwards has much to prove after catching just 11 passes in 12 games as a rookie.

The third of Mayock’s potential starters from last year’s draft is linebacker Tanner Muse. A safety while at Clemson, the Raiders converted him to LB and placed him on injured reserve with a toe injury last season. But now, with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley taking the helm, Muse is getting a shot at starting in the Raiders’ 4-3 “base” defense, according to multiple reports and confirmed by coach Jon Gruden.

“[Muse] hasn’t won that spot yet,” Gruden said during media availability on Tuesday. “He’s getting a good look. His speed and athleticism are what we think is conducive to that position, the [OLB] position. So, he’s doing some good things. We aren’t in enough base to really see him yet, but that will continue to emerge as the next couple weeks unfold.”

While this isn’t a glowing review of Muse’s camp thus far, any positive sign from him is noteworthy at this point. He struggled mightily at training camp last season.

And as Gruden said, the Raiders haven’t played much 4-3 yet. Plus, Bradley is expected to use his nickel defense as his base alignment during the regular season, deploying just two linebackers, likely to be a mixture of Nicholas Morrow, Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton.

But Muse owns a 4.41-second time in the 40-yard dash. That’s surely part of what made Mayock pull the trigger in the third round, and it’s caught Gruden’s eye in Henderson thus far. With Bradley’s simpler scheme, as opposed to last year’s Raiders, Muse can potentially step in sooner than expected.

If Muse wins the first-team spot at a position that rarely sees the field, does that count as one of the starters Mayock daydreamed about before the 2020 draft? Hard to say. But it’s easy to realize that the Raiders’ draft picks have to start producing, and Muse has emerged out of nowhere to become a player to watch.

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