Hue Jackson had one mission coming into training camp. He wanted to build a bully. Though the results have been mixed week-in and week-out none can deny the bullying mentality taken on by the men in the trenches.
Oakland’s offensive line has been the most consistently performing unit on the team with their defensive counterparts earning some high marks as well. The O-line has protected Jason Campbell like the secret service does the president while pushing around opponents to give Darren McFadden huge holes to run through.
While the D-line has been up and down there is no doubt that when on its game there isn’t a tougher group of defenders to deal with in the league.
Unfortunately that bullying mentality hasn’t translated to all members of the Silver and Black. We’re still waiting for the linebackers to get into the beat-em-up spirit of things.
As a rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain earned the benefit of the doubt. Not only was he playing one of the more demanding positions in all of football but he was also replacing a highly productive hometown product in Kirk Morrison.
McClain showed steady improvement during his fist lap around the NFL so it seemed only logical his stock would continue to climb during his second season. So far he’s been consistently invisible.
Former Raider turned broadcaster Bill Romanowski knows a thing or two about being a bully and he’s not seeing it in McClain. On CSN Romo called out McClain for his continued disappearing act.
“Rolando McClain, I don’t see him. He’s 6-4, 255. Make some plays. I want to see the guy knock the crap out of some people. Be around the football.”
Now to be fair McClain isn’t the only linebacker pulling a Houdini for the Raiders. Kamerion Wimbley has done little to merit his huge contract while Quentin Groves continues to be, well, Quentin Groves.
Still, there is much more that is expected of McClain. When you’re playing in the middle you’re expected to be the guy setting the tone for the entire defense. To be fare it’s not in McClain’s nature to be overly vocal. Another factor is Richard Seymour being the unquestioned leader of the pack. However McClain’s play hasn’t spoken any louder than his words.
In order for Oakland to improve against the run McClain has got to be the run stuffer the Raiders envisioned when they made him a top 10 pick. Coming out of Alabama one of the concerns was that McClain was living off the fat of the land by playing behind a dominant D-line.
Some saw McClain struggling in the NFL simply because he was no longer among the biggest or strongest men on the field in the pros as he often was in college.
Whatever the case it’s high time for McClain to be more than a man playing middle linebacker. He needs to won the position and everything that comes with it. In short he needs to make plays or better yet he needs to blow them up.
Romanowski has never been one to mince words so his calling out of McClain should be heeded. We’re not talking about a guy looking to make headlines here. While I’ve never been a Romo fan I completely feel him on where he’s coming from.
McClain isn’t alone as his entire unit has underperformed. But when you’re in a position of great responsibility as he is then criticism is inherit. Especially when you’re among the most invisible men on the field each week.