Why Coach Gruden believes 2021 could be a career year for linebacker Nicholas Morrow

Nicholas Morrow is heading into his fifth season as a Raider, and Head Coach Jon Gruden believes this is going to be the versatile linebacker's year.

"He's had a great spring, and I think he's on the rise," Gruden told the media Tuesday. "I think his time is right now."

The 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker has had a long journey to the NFL, coming out of Division III's Greenville College and signing with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

But it's only been up from there.

Over 62 career games with 29 starts, Morrow has recorded two interceptions, 20 passes defended and four sacks -- three of which he notched last season.

Morrow stepped up in 2020 and made a large impact after injuries sidelined some of the linebacking corps. He made the most of the opportunity in front of him by recording a career-high 77 tackles in 11 starts (14 total games).

Gruden noted that Morrow's continued growth has made him a leader among the defense.

"Now he's got a chance, I think, to be a captain for us," Gruden said. "I think he's got a chance to be a difference maker for us in the middle of our defense. Time will tell. We've got a long way to go but I really like him."

The Silver and Black's defense will look different this year and feature new faces not only on the field, but at the helm. Gruden described new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley -- who will look to turn around the defense -- as high-energy.

"He's upbeat, positive. He's philosophical," Gruden said. "He's fun to be around. He makes you laugh but he also pushes you."

Pushing is what the Raiders defense needs after allowing an average 389.1 yards and 29.9 points per game last season.

"I think what's going to make this defense go is how we rush the passer, how it goes upfront. ... If we can improve upfront, I think this defense will be much improved."

View photos of Raiders coaches and players as they report to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for 2021 Training Camp.

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