Rolando McClain: MLB Moving On

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 ...

| 5 years ago

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.

McClain’s Future

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.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • dave

    Great article Steve. When they drafted the guy I thought to myself “hmmm early for a linebacker but actually a good pick considering its al davis.”

    This kid has a lot of work to do. His arrest showed the world his true colors. He’s a damn thug. He needs to change his attitude as well as he play on the field. I honestly dont think he’s ever going to amount to much. Its a shame, big waste of talent. Amazes me even more about Willis, how hard his life has been and how he turned out. Not just on the field but off it as well. Take notes Mcclain.

    • Mike Liv

      Terrible article, by Thursday when this article came out you should have know he was not being cut. He took down his twitter post and the team said he was only kicked out of practice. Why? He has a contract guaranteed $23 million of which most has not been paid. So the Raiders need to try to get something out of him, rather than pay a guy to sit at home. They might try to trade him in the off season and have another team pick up some of the contract much like Seattle did when the Raiders picked up Curry.

  • Matt Calvey

    I remember when the Raiders drafted him, and ESPN showed his “highlight” video. He looked slower than dirt.

  • Jack Mitchell


  • Blake McDaniel

    Chiefs? I know Pioli is a psycho and won’t make a move on him.

  • @thenflanalyst

    For the Ravens to have a shot he would have to clear waivers because of his contract. If that happens they could be in, but there is no way they take him on with his salaries the next 2 years. Buy low situation they could definitely use a young guy at ILB, even with his limitations.

  • Dynasty

    he should be an olb. coming out of college, i thought he was a player who will do most of his damage coming downfield and attacking the LOS. looked good coming down to stuff the run and pass rushing, but he would guess and hesitate too much at times if you asked him to do more as a mlb.

    • Izach

      no OLB is for faster guys with better coverage skills in a 4-3 maybe he could getaway with being a strong side OLB in the 4-3 but even then he needs to tak on blocks better, and in a 3-4 he needs to get better at fighting off the block to set the edge. he is a true ILB at his core, problem is he is a bigger ILB which mean he needs to be pairs with a smaller Mack ILB, the steelers could possibly use a guy like him with timmons moving back to Mack, but they dont like the legal problems. the cards are a perfect fit, washington is exactly that a Mack ILB with out a Buck ILB to pair him with. patriots alread have 2 guy like him in spikes and hightower and even mayo as a ILB so i doubt they go for him.

      • izach

        im not 100% sure on the cowboys but i know sean lee isnt a huge guy either they could maybe use mcclain there too. a 3-4 team needs to get him to get his potential out, i kno alot of ppl expect the steelers to draft him if he slipped in the draft so maybe they go after him, it would follow the james farrior plan, take an obviously talented guy that has flashed the ability but is just in the wrong system wait for his team to throw him aside and pay him realtively cheaply but get alot of production from him.

  • Donald Maginnis

    He is not a 4-3 linebacker and never should have been drafted by a team that runs it. He is a square peg in a round hole. This is a guy the patriots would take a shot at. The patriots always jump at a guy that you don’t think they will. He would be next to Donte Hightower who played college with him and would be under Belichik who basically has the exact same mindset as Saban.