Rolando McClain #55
Weight: 254 lbs
Arm Length: 33″
Hand Size: 9 3/8″
40 Yard Dash: 4.69
3 Cone Drill: N/A
20 Yard Shuttle: N/A
Bench Press: 24 reps
Vertical Jump: 35″
Broad Jump: N/A
In the last decade there have been a lot of Raiders first round picks that were scrutinized far before they ever put on a uniform. A lot of the scrutiny was justified, but should not always be directed at the player. After all, the players can’t control where they are selected. Rolando McClain “broke the mold” if you will, when it comes to first round picks by the Raiders though. He was thought of by many to finally be one of those “sure thing” draft picks. Well the start of McClain’s career in the NFL has been anything but “sure”. McClain struggled to make the transition from a one gap linebacker in Nick Saban’s 34 defense at Alabama to a two gap linebacker in the 43 defense the Raiders ran in his first season. Those struggles are understood on some levels. Making the transition to the NFL is tough enough without having to learn a completely new scheme and be counted on as a day 1 starter your rookie season. However, this is the big league’s now and sympathy is hard to come by.
In year two, it was a fresh start for McClain. After getting a year under his belt and time to adjust to all the changes it was time for McClain to settle in and begin his dominance, right? Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. While McClain showed his ability at times during the season, he was inconsistent at best and did not progress much from year one. He struggled mightily in pass coverage, got caught out of position far too often and at times did not shed blocks in the run game as you would expect out of your “star” linebacker.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that no excuses should be made for McClain. He is getting paid big money and he knows what is expected of him. However, you do have to keep in mind a couple of things. First, McClain did play the majority of the season on a bum ankle. How bad it really was is tough to know, but it was obvious at times that it was bothering him. Some guys will get the benefit of the doubt, and will be seen as a “team” player for playing hurt, but patience is wearing thin for the guy who was supposed to help restore a run defense in Oakland. Second, the Raiders defensive scheme was one that had many people scratching their heads throughout the season. It certainly did not put players in the best position to be successful the majority of the time.
To steal a line from head coach Dennis Allen, “At the end of the day…” the players have to go out and perform and McClain did not perform up to standards. To make matters worse, McClain is now facing jail time for assault charges stemming from a fight he was involved in back in Alabama. Luckily for McClain, there is a new regime running the show, and they are willing to forget the past and give everyone a fresh start. An opportunity McClain better take full advantage from.
Despite the negatives that have shown through in the first two years of McClain’s career, there is still no doubting the talent he possesses. It’s up to him to put in the work so that the talent shows up on Sundays. He has some things working in his favor this season though. Dennis Allen has made it clear that he wants to mix in some 34 looks this season. That should put McClain in more of a comfort zone as a one gap linebacker. He will also probably be asked to cover down field less and focus more on short zone’s and run defense. He also excels at blitzing, which is something the Raiders plan to do a lot this year. McClain belongs in an attack style defense where he can trust his first instinct and just go out and play. His third season should tell the Raiders everything they need to know about their young linebacker.
Was he a product of a great system at Alabama or is he primed to breakout and become one of the future stars at inside linebacker?