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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Concern growing about Rolando McClain

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain is becoming the poster boy for the Raiders’ defensive struggles.

While there is excitement building in Oakland, the defense has been an issue in the first quarter of the season. The 2-2 Raiders are 29th in the NFL in overall defense. They have struggled against the run and the pass.

Fingers are starting to point at McClain, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2010 draft. There are questions about whether the Alabama product is making enough plays. He seems to struggle in pass coverage, although he does have 30 tackles in four games.

Former Oakland linebacker Bill Romanowski called out McClain on a local Comcast show after another poor defensive showing against New England in Week 4. Romanowski said this about McClain: "Rolando McClain, I don't see him. He's 6-[foot-]4, 255. Make some plays. ... Be around the football."

I’ve been hearing talk from scouts about McClain’s lack of positive impact since his rookie season. I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. about McClain this week. He isn’t singing McClain’s praises, either.

“He can take questionable angles,” Williamson said. “And for as big as he is, doesn’t kill blockers when taking them on. He has average speed. He is average in coverage. I expected more by now."

Oakland coach Hue Jackson has long stood behind McClain. Jackson went out of his way to praise McClain in training camp. On Monday, when asked about McClain’s play in his press briefing, Jackson expressed confidence McClain will be a positive player for his team this season.

“I think Rolando has a responsibility,” Jackson said. “He’s making calls and doing all the things middle linebackers do. He’s really an extension of a defensive coordinator. He has to make sure that we get everybody on the same page. On top of that, be the type of player that we all know he can be. Again, it goes back to that consistency; that’s what I’m talking about everywhere, whether it be a quarterback, middle linebacker, the line, the D-line, everybody. We’ve just got to become a very consistent football team. But I think he’s doing fine. We all wish that he made more plays. We all do. Every player wishes they made more plays.”

McClain has struck me as a confident player. However, with Oakland’s defense struggling, there’s pressure on the young quarterback of the defense to start making a difference. Let’s see how he handles it.