Raiders’ Armstrong holding back to hold on

One Raiders linebacker, despite plenty of talent, has been kicked out of multiple football programs.

He’s been looking to stick somewhere, to overcome his own demons. And he may be the starting linebacker come week one of the regular season.

26-year-old linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong is a starter for week one of the preseason, and has a legitimate shot at staving off the full-time job thought to be held by Sio Moore.

Armstrong is enjoying his first training camp in silver and black, his first two were with St. Louis, where he was originally signed as an undrafted rookie and then cut for a blatant personal foul last season.

He can now exact some sort of revenge Friday, though it’s not out of the question that Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is testing Armstrong’s mental growth.

The same type of thing that got Armstrong cut from the Rams is not unfamiliar ground for the young man.

He was dismissed from the University of Miami for a similar incident, which also led to his undrafted rookie status and the pay that comes with it.

Armstrong had the talent. Just not the level of discipline that may have changed his life. He now has a second chance, one he says is taking very seriously:

“Just going out here and taking my job very seriously. Knowing that mistakes are not tolerated. I don’t like them, and I know the coaches don’t like them.”

At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, the Sanford, FL native is much taller, though also leaner, than the usual linebacker. He has the size typically found at strong safety, but his 40-time at his pro day in 2013 wasn’t that of your average defensive back.

It is, though, exceptional for a linebacker.

Asked whether anything has changed in his game, Armstrong isn’t sure there is one thing in particular. He cites the extra reps and opportunities.

And having Ken Norton as his defensive coordinator helps:

“He’s helping me along the way, putting me in the right spots. Telling me what to look for here and there. And then it’s just about going out and executing what he’s calling.”

Having a head coach who played linebacker in the NFL doesn’t hurt, and Del Rio’s hands-on approach is something that Armstrong enjoys:

“He’s in our room, he comes in and makes corrections. He kind of gives us that knowledge because he played the game before. He has a lot that he can give off to you.”

The key for Armstrong to continue his growth will likely be how well he composes himself between whistle and snap, not the usual snap to whistle.

For some, that’s much easier during the offseason. And Armstrong will be tested soon.

Preseason Week 1: What to look for

The first week of preseason is often a proving ground for those who came in as undrafted rookies with no signing bonus or reason for the team not to cut them.

Armstrong still fits the category, though a few others are in serious contention for a roster spot.

Wide receiver Kris Durham is one of those guys, and is easy to overlook given the Raiders depth at receiver. The 6-foot-6 behemoth, though, can line up at a few different places and is also a lethal red zone weapon.

Wide receiver Josh Harper and defensive tackle Leon Orr are two other players who have staying power, but will need to show up in big moments Friday.

The starters are mostly set to open the season barring injuries, though J’Marcus Webb has been practicing at right guard and looking to step in and make his presence felt.

He’ll need to fight off Khalif Barnes and rookie Jon Feliciano, but Webb has looked good in camp.

The right tackle spot, too, is an open position between Menelik Watson and Austin Howard. Both should get a crack at it Friday, though it’s anyone’s guess how long either will play.

Catch the game on KTVU channel 2 locally, and on the radio with either 98.5 FM or 102.1 FM.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.