While many things went wrong during the game, there was one thing that really stuck out for me. Last week, I wrote an article about how the Raiders need players who hustle. If you were to look at the Raiders' depth chart, one player who does not hustle is middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
Rolando McClain is a player who was expected to take the next step this season. He is very young and was considered to be a very talented player who would exceed under Oakland's first defensive-minded coach in many years. And he did just that, for one week.
In the season opener against the Chargers, McClain had his best game as a professional player. He was quick to the hole and hit with force. He had actually looked like a player who was drafted in the top 10. The McClain-led defense held the Chargers to just 22 points, despite all of the special teams woes.
For every good play he had in Week 1, he had a bad play in the weeks following. In Week 4 against the Broncos, McClain was putrid. The man was jogging during plays. He lacked, you guessed it, hustle.
Time and time again, the Raider Nation has found excuses to defend McClain. Personally, I've had enough of the excuses. Last season, it was the nagging foot injury and the highly inappropriate gun incident. This year, it is more injuries such as the concussion and ankle injury.
Now, I don't want to sound like a heartless jerk, but many players have played with ankle injuries and many have shown much more effort than he has.
I, for one, have had enough with him and I think it's time to replace the man as the defensive leader. The man I want in the middle of the Silver and Black defense next year is this year's best middle linebacker, Manti Te'o.
Manti Te'o is very much a household name. Coming out of high school, Te'o was one of the most sought-after recruits in recent history. As a freshman, Te'o got immediate playing time and has played in every game for Notre Dame.
Te'o surprised many when he decided to stay at Notre Dame for his senior year rather than enter the draft. He definitely made the right choice as he has been destroying everyone he plays this year. A machine, Te'o has 38 tackles, three interceptions and five interceptions while helping the Fighting Irish to a 5-0 record.
Sadly, Te'o received incredibly tragic news in September. His grandmother had passed away from cancer. In the same week, his girlfriend also passed away from leukemia. Te'o showed admirable composure and went on to have an amazing game in dedication to his loved ones.
What this showed me that Te'o knows how to deal with adversity. He is a great person and has his head screwed the right way.
At a football standpoint, Te'o is as good as they come. He plays with speed and is very physical. He has a natural feel for the ball and always seems to be in the right spot, which is something we can't always say about McClain. Te'o can take on blockers but is always in position to make the tackle.
Last, he shows the hustle that you want. While watching the game against Miami, one play stuck out for me. It was a screen play on 3rd-and-long.
Te'o had dropped back into coverage, recognized the play and began to move when a Miami blocker attempted to cut block him. He got off the cut block easily and ran all the way to the sideline to make the tackle. This was no easy feat as Te'o was near the middle of the field when he made his move to the ball carrier.
Te'o has everything that you want in a star middle linebacker. To me, he comes close to the two middle linebackers the San Francisco 49ers have. Like NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, Te'o is a three-down linebacker who has the speed and range to cover sideline to sideline. He is great in defending the run, against the pass and is an effective blitzer.
While McClain is still young and is constantly talked up by the Raiders organization, it may be time to try something new with the man, whether it's changing positions or benching the former national champion in favor of a player such as Manti Te'o. I don't necessarily want the Raiders to rid themselves of McClain, but his days as the starting middle linebacker have to be numbered.
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