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Luke Masterson, Darien Butler helping each other grow through their rookie seasons

Rookie linebackers Luke Masterson and Darien Butler has seen more snaps this season than many would've expected.

The two undrafted rookies arrived to Las Vegas together in May, vying to make the 53-man roster. Both Masterson and Butler were team captains in college, and recorded over 200 tackles in their respective times at Wake Forest and Arizona State. After putting in the work throughout Training Camp, the two linebackers, along with Sam Webb and Isaiah Pola-Mao, were the four rookie UDFAs to make the Raiders' initial active roster in August.

Fast forward nearly five months, the two find themselves in a position of having duties beyond special teams. They've been in the front line for several weeks, filling in amid injures. Their volume may seemingly increase at the Raiders close out the season.

"[T]he more looks you get, the more you can play with anticipation," Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham said of the linebacking duo's playing time. "Same thing for the playcaller. The looks I get based off of film, based on my experience. ... Same thing as a player, the more looks you get, the more you can play with anticipation. Everybody talks about playing fast. It's not necessarily your timed speed. It's about you eliminating some of the variables and playing with some anticipation.

"Any player would tell you that that's why we do the scouting report, that's why we practice, to try to eliminate some of the variables so we could play with some anticipation situationally by formation, by personnel. And the best way to get back experience is real game time."

This Sunday could be Masterson's sixth start on the season, filling the spot of Divine Deablo, who was leading the team in tackles before he was injured in Week 9. The former Demon Deacon hasn't looked out of place since stepping into the starting defensive unit. He's compiled 43 total tackles and three tackles for loss in 15 games.

"There's been a lot of lessons every week," Masterson reflected. "I think the biggest lesson is to learn from your mistakes every week and continue to try and grow every week. Take every day as an opportunity and just take it one day at a time."

Butler's usage has increased as well, with more defensive and special teams snaps being bestowed upon him. He's been able to get comfortable in Graham's defense with the help of linebackers coach Antonio Pierce. Butler considers Pierce a big factor behind him becoming a Raider, as he was Butler's defensive coordinator at Arizona State.

"I feel like we have coaches who put us in position to make plays and execute the defense real well," Butler told "The flow of the game [for me] has been flowing for sure. Getting acquainted to it starts in practice throughout the week. Taking those mental reps or practice reps is really important."

The two have been tied at the hip since Training Camp, even sharing lockers next to each other. Both credit the other for helping get up to speed through the strenuous rookie season, and have developed a genuine friendship in the process.

"Luke has been great. It's been great learning from Luke," said Darien Butler. "Seeing how he's adjusted to this league, he's a real pro. He takes notes, he's dialed in at meetings and he takes all the things he does in the classroom on the field. Just being next to him and learning with him all throughout Training Camp and OTAs – I feel like he's handled it like a real pro."

"It's awesome to have a guy that's literally in the same position as you," Luke Masterson added. "He was an undrafted linebacker, started on special teams together, playing on special teams together the whole year.

"Having someone to talk to about stuff and knows exactly what you're going through has been awesome."

As the Raiders prepare for Week 17 against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium, view past matchups between the two teams.

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