Oakland Raiders: Shilique Calhoun set for sophomore surge at 270

Coming into Oakland Raiders OTAs with a substantial weight gain, Shilique Calhoun could break out in Year 2.

Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun‘s rookie season started and finished without a peep. The Raiders selected the talented pass-rusher as a value pickup in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he only played 170 snaps on defense and 192 with the special teams unit before opting for a procedure on his knee after 10 appearances.

To sum it up, Calhoun went from a starting defensive end on the collegiate level to a backup linebacker in the pros, which requires learning on the job while adjusting to the speed of the game. It’s a lot to digest for a rookie with his eyes wide open. The Michigan State product briefly talked about his duties last June on Sirius XM NFL Radio (h/t NBC Bay Area reporter Scott Bair):

“I’ve been playing a little bit of everything,” Calhoun said this week in a SiriusXM NFL radio interview. “I’ve been moving around, but I’m mainly at (strongside linebacker) and the LEO. I’m trying to learn those two positions and master them behind two great players in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.”

Calhoun likely picked up a lot from the Raiders’ top two pass-rushers, but he didn’t have ample time to show results on the field.

The decision to bulk up may have been one thing Calhoun drew directly from Mack. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year logged four sacks as a rookie and added significant weight going into his sophomore season. Calhoun followed suit and weighs approximately 270 pounds, per the team’s official website.

“It was my personal decision and I took it up with the head coach [Jack Del Rio], of course. The reason for gaining weight was to be able to man the edge with a certain sense of strength, as well as agility. I still have my agility at this weight, and I have a lot more strength,” Calhoun said.

Those in attendance at the Raiders’ organized team activities quickly noticed the defensive lineman’s size:

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Shilique Calhoun (91) and Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) tackle Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jacquizz Rodgers (32) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Turning Size, Power into Production

Now, how does the added bulk translate?

At 270 pounds, Calhoun should be able to handle bigger offensive linemen at the point of attack. Agile pass-rushers, who don’t have some push behind their pads often find themselves on the ground or stifled in the shuffle. Assuming the second-year pro added strength along with size, he’ll pose a threat to the pocket.

Remember, on the collegiate level, Calhoun finished with 1.5 sacks fewer than Mack’s 28 at Buffalo. Naturally, the Raiders’ leading pass-rusher plays much better against the run, which makes him a complete defender off the edge. With more power, his understudy may be able to improve his stance against downhill run schemes.

In any scenario, depth will help a team through a grueling season plus the playoffs.
At times, Mario Edwards Jr. lines up on the outside due to his athletic build. Injuries have slowed his development and if the trend continues, Calhoun should be able to soak up those snaps.

Don’t expect Calhoun to push for a starting spot outright, but his ability to take down the quarterback and disrupt plays in the backfield rose significantly with his offseason regimen.

The Raiders certainly need a boost in run defense. Edwards’ presence should make a difference, but Calhoun’s potential to set a hard edge adds another quality asset to the rotation up front.

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