Rolando McClain: MLB Moving On
Well that didn’t go as planned.
Releasing a Top 10 pick in his third year with the team is never good business, but it seems that linebacker Rolando McClain has finally worn out his welcome with the Oakland Raiders. He never quite lived up to the potential expected as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and while the on-field play wasn’t a complete disaster, his off-field issues were likely too much to overcome.
The Raiders are going through a transition as an organization and they’ve decided to continue the house cleaning here in the middle of the season. At 3-8 and with the defense surrendering over 40 points per game over the last four games, there’s certainly no harm in making some changes.
So what went wrong with McClain’s tenure in Oakland and where will he go from here?
On the Field
The value of the linebacker has changed in recent years as the league has spread out and become more pass-happy. While McClain has done some nice things against the run in his three years, his struggles in the passing game have seen him lose a lot of snaps this season. After playing 94 percent of the time in both 2010 and 2011, McClain has seen the field only 68 percent of the time here in 2012. He’s been relegated to playing mostly in their base 4-3 sets as the Raiders have turned to rookie LB Miles Burris in his place. While Burris hasn’t exactly been lights out in his first year, Oakland knows what they have in McClain and they’ve tried to limit his opportunities against the pass.
Against the run, while the numbers are solid, they don’t tell the whole story. He’s currently seventh in the league in Run Stop Percentage at 11.4 percent and tied for 11th with 27 stops. There’s nothing wrong with those figures, but when we look at the film, a lot of his plays are made as the unblocked defender. He does a nice job of sifting through traffic and finding the ball, but he’s struggled when offensive linemen get their hands on him. When the scheme puts him in position to make a play, he can get there, but he hasn’t made many plays while working off blocks since his strong Week 1 game against the San Diego Chargers.
Another positive for McClain is his tackling as he ranks ninth among inside linebackers this year with a Tackling Efficiency of 21.0. He’s only missed one tackle in the running game, so as to the previous point, when he’s put in position to make a play, he generally makes it. There’s definitely some value to making the expected plays, but it’s the blunders that Raider fans will remember most. When he wasn’t glued to a blocker, there was the jogging pursuit that became an all too regular sight. There was Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he shot the gap and completely whiffed on running back Doug Martin before he took it to the house for a 45-yard touchdown. Or two weeks ago when McCLain was thrown to the ground by guard Ben Grubbs as RB Mark Ingram went untouched for a 27-yard touchdown.
So were there some positives? Absolutely.
But for a guy drafted eighth overall, an organization is expecting a Patrick Willis or a Ray Lewis, and McClain was far from that.
Discipline Issues, Etc.
As much as we discuss McClain’s strengths and weaknesses on the field, it’s his off-field issues that have likely played a large role in seeing him move on from Oakland. Among other incidents, he was arrested last December and originally sentenced to spend 180 days in jail after an alleged shooting incident, but those charges were later dropped. When you throw in underwhelming effort from the guy who is supposed to be the leader of the defense as well as his upcoming $4 million salary, it’s clear as to why the Raiders have decided to move on.
As mentioned, there are some positives to McClain’s game, but he needs to be in a well-protected system. While he showed well as a pass rusher last year, his coverage skills will probably limit him to being a two-down player. Perhaps a move to a 3-4 scheme will do him some good as that’s where he excelled in college at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban. Playing the middle in the Raiders 4-3 may have been too much to ask for a downhill player like McClain.
The Arizona Cardinals may be a good fit as LB Daryl Washington has emerged as one of the league’s best, but fellow inside linebacker Paris Lenon is aging and unproductive. McClain could be used to occupy blocks and help Washington continue to make plays.
Keep an eye on the Washington Redskins who may not need McClain right at this moment, but LB London Fletcher is finally starting to show his age and grabbing an inside linebacker with a first-round pedigree could be worth the risk for next year and beyond.
Finally the Baltimore Ravens could look at McClain to add depth to their inside linebacking corps. With Ray Lewis trying to make an improbable return this year and Dannell Ellerbe banged up, McClain could be available at just the right time, while two other playoff teams who could use depth in the middle are the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers.
Perhaps the change of scenery will do McClain some good. Keep an eye on the waiver wire as he’ll have a new home very soon.
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