After reading various news stories about the Oakland Raiders defense and most importantly the new linebackers, I've been very impressed with what I've heard about Rolando "Ro" McClain.
He's known as being a leader, a very smart player and a great teammate. It's only 4 days into training camp and all 3 issues have already been addressed.
The last several seasons has seen a lack of communication among the linebackers with someone always being out of position because they had no one to keep them in line. The middle linebacker's job is to keep the defense in the right position and to effectively communicate any changes and then effectively be able to ensure everyone's in the right spot.
Ro is taking over a beloved Oakland Raider in Kirk Morrison. Although Kirk was a great teammate and had some skills, he sorely lacked in the communication and studying departments and wasn't a great fit for Oakland's middle linebacker spot.
Some fans in the Raider Nation believe Kirk was a scapegoat, but most fail to realize Morrison was an outside linebacker in college and was drafted to be an outside linebacker with the Raiders but was moved to the middle linebacker spot his second year.
Unlike Ro who has been a middle linebacker his whole career, Morrison wasn't a true middle linebacker. He didn't have the natural instincts to lead his team and ensure the team communicated well. There was too much confusion within the roster and they had no one to keep them on the same page which is typically the middle linebacker's job.
Although it was sad to see Morrison traded for a 4th round pick, it was great to see Oakland upgrade the position. Once rolled around Ro was already showing his ability to study and master the playbook and become the middle linebacker Kirk couldn't ever become.
I love the fact he's already becoming a leader. He knows he makes an impact on his teammates. “I don’t know,” he said. “You just have to watch and see. I can’t describe my play. I don’t know how I’m able to affect guys, but for some reason, some way I am. I think that’s what Coach really liked about me, just being able to step up and command the defense. It’s something I do.
Leadership is a key component which has been missing on the Raiders defense since the likes of Trace Armstrong and Rod Woodson wore the Silver & Black. Typically stud defenses rely upon their middle linebacker to lead them and Oakland finally has a player who fits the mold of leader and has the smarts to have them prepared each day.
Ro obviously has the leadership skills and seems to be taking on the role of the leader in Oakland, but ensuring he doesn't step on the toes of established veterans Richard Seymour and Nnamdi Asomugha. He's already stated he plans on "owning" this team by the end up his rookie year or by the start of his second season.
A very important factor in Ro's development seems to be the fact he's improving each day because of his studying habits.
Communication is going to be a major factor in Oakland's improvement and I believe Ro is going to significantly help solve this problem.
I look forward to Ro's impact on this defense and finally seeing a defense who is not confused and finally able to make the right adjustments when its clearly obvious the ball is going the other way, etc.
Usually rookies don't have the ability to make major changes, but Ro isn't your usual rookie.
Even though his nickname is Ro I really believe it should be Rock, because he's going to be the rock for which the Oakland Raiders defense finally gets built and plays with the heart and determination necessary.