I won’t pretend as if I’ve seen every snap of Philip Wheelers’ pro career. To be perfectly honest I barely even paid much attention to him during his time in Indianapolis. All I knew of the Georgia native was that he was an asset in defensing the run and a likely temporary solution for the Raiders during this transition phase.
Shows what I know.
Not only has Wheeler’s play almost guaranteed him a job in Oakland beyond 2012 but he’s also developing into a well rounded linebacker only seven games into his Raider career.
Seeing Wheeler play the last few weeks have been a revelation. He plays physical, flies to the ball and lays the wood to opposing QBs in the most punishing fashion. In shot, Wheeler is a Raider in every since of the word.
So impressed with his grasp on the defensive concepts were the coaches that the play calling duties were stripped from Rolando McClain and handed over to Wheeler. That’s saying something for an afterthought of a free agent that was expected to keep the seat warm for a suitable replacement.
Now Wheeler is the one that is indispensable while former top pick McClain has real reason to be looking over his shoulder.
Soon Aaron Curry will be back in action. Both Wheeler and Curry are capable of playing every linebacker position in Dennis Allen’s scheme. Combine that with the improving play of rookie Miles Burris and you’ve got yourself an odd man out…unless Allen decides to go 3-4 fulltime.
No matter the future of Oakland’s defensive scheme you can count on Wheeler being a part of it. His high motor and aggressive style of play has helped turn a terrible defense into a somewhat respectable one and that’s in just over a month of ball. Imagine what might happen if this upward arc continues throughout the balance of the season. With Wheeler leading the charge don’t think for a second that isn’t possible.