Rookie Linebacker Cory James
Training camp serves as an opportunity for rookies to make a positive first impression in front of a coaching staff and their peers. Prior to the 2016 season the Oakland Raiders selected Colorado State-product Cory James with the 194th pick in the sixth round of the NFL draft. From that point on, James has continued to climb the depth chart, recently making his first NFL start at middle linebacker.
The rookie entered training camp with optimistic expectations from the coaching staff and it was assumed that he could provide depth to the Raiders' linebacking corps. James displayed time and time again his ability to locate the ball-carrier and seek out the quarterback. He got a taste of the Titans' offense earlier this year in the preseason, showcasing his talent with four tackles, and was mixed into the game plan nicely. He once again demonstrated his ability on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans with the second-most tackles on the team, finishing with six unassisted tackles on the afternoon, while finishing in 96 percent of the defensive snaps.
The Silver and Black have been criticized lately for the team's defense, and James opened up about some of the problems he thinks are occurring.
"Probably just communication and stuff, and not giving up big plays to the open man," said James. "Just knocking everybody down."
The fact that James has been able to grasp and absorb defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s scheme so quickly is a testament to his ability to adapt and understand the game of football. After the Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Head Coach Jack Del Rio mentioned that the defense's eyes weren't positioned in the right place. In Week 3, James appeared to have his eyes focused where they needed to be, and Del Rio expressed his thoughts on the linebacker's performance.
"Cory [James] made a couple of rookie mistakes, but he's a tough kid," said Del Rio Monday. "He finds the football and I thought they both played pretty well for their first opportunity to start."
James is currently slated as the team's starting middle linebacker and will be granted another opportunity to start this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. The opposing team is currently 3-0 and has a quarterback known to sling the ball. The rookie will need to keep his eyes focused on nine-year veteran Joe Flacco and read his movements.
The rookie linebacker will be interesting to watch going forward as he continues to develop as a starter and player in the National Football League.