Trent Dilfer: “I’m a big believer that if you want to fix your defense, you fix it with big people. You need strength at the point of attack. You need big, strong, physical, and tough guys up front.”
Fact: If Oakland wants to stop people from running down their throats, they need to get bigger on defense.
As far as linebackers for the Oakland Raiders, enter Trevor Scott, the former University of Buffalo defensive end, who made a conversion from a pass rushing defensive end to an every down exterior linebacker for the Raiders last year.
Scott is 6’5”, 255 lbs., and ran a 4.59 forty yard dash prior to being drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by Oakland. He is the prototypical college defensive end that the NFL scouts look for to play as an edge pass rushing linebacker at the next level. Scott made the conversion from end to linebacker in the middle of last season.
After Scott made the switch, he took a starting spot away from Raiders fourth year linebacker Thomas Howard. Howard ultimately took over the starting gig on the other side due to multiple injuries to other linebackers, but the fact remains that Howard, a four year pro, lost his job to a guy who changed positions halfway through the year. It will be interesting to see what Scott does with a full year at the position.
If that isn’t big enough, the Raiders then proceeded to trade their later of two third round picks to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley was a first round pick from 2006, just six spots after current Raiders safety Michael Huff. No matter what Wimbley does in the Silver and Black uniform, anytime you can get a productive, 26 year old former first round pick for a late third round draft choice, you win.
For example, even though one could make the argument that Michael Huff’s performance has been so-so thus far, nobody would expect Al Davis to trade him for a late third round pick…and Al’s supposed to be crazy right?
Wimbley stands 6’3” and, like Scott, weighs in at 255 pounds. In 2006, he was ranked the 2nd best defensive end in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com. He runs a 4.61 forty yard dash. Big, fast, and strong just like Davis likes them; bursting with potential. Wimbley has racked up 26.5 sacks since entering the league and has started 62 of the 63 games he has played in for the Browns.
Now let’s compare these two guys, Scott and Wimbley, to the Raiders starters from last season. I’ll start with Thomas Howard who, as I said, was replaced by Trevor Scott mid-season. When Howard got to Oakland he was an oversized safety. He was just 239 pounds and ran a 4.42 forty. Since joining the Raiders, he’s gained just one pound.
Needless to say, Howard has impressed in pass coverage for the Raiders. But 2009 was a big fall off year for the young linebacker. He only recorded 79 tackles after averaging 100.5 in each of his first three seasons. He had six interceptions in his sophomore season, but has only had one interception since then.His play has fallen off and he has become expendable.
Howard was tendered a second round pick this year, but as of today, he has yet to sign his tender and is not participating in the teams voluntary workouts. Howard was, however, at the teams complex occasionally prior to the free agency period. It is likely that Howard will be in a Silver and Black uniform this year, whether or not he will be a starter isa question for a different day. One thing is for sure, he’d make a great back-up for the upcoming season.
The slated starting linebackeron the other side was Ricky Brown. Brown was also in competition for the middle linebacker spot; pushing Kirk Morrison to be better last season. Brown lost that competition, but he did impress enough people to keep his starting outside linebacker job. Brown eventually lost his season to injury in late October.
While he was on the field, Brown did create some exciting plays. I remember one particular interception he returned for around thirty yards. Prior to his injury he was growing on me, I was starting to like his play. However, it does not bode well for him that he has missed 20 of the last 32 gamesfor the Raiders. It could have something to do with his smallish 235 pound frame.
To review, the Raiders have upgraded the two outside linebacker positions over the past six months or so. For those of you thinking that Scott or Wimbley might be mostly playing end this year, don’t count on it. The team should be looking to get bigger, and if you look at the current ends on the roster you’ll notice that Matt Shaughnessy is the smallest, weighing 270 pounds. Richard Seymour is 310lbs and Jay Richardson is 280 pounds. Expect the Raiders to add depth at defensive end later on in the draft, or even after the draft via the waiver wire.
There is one position left to addressand itis perhaps the most important; not only for linebackers, but for the entire defense. They say the middle linebacker is like the quarterback of the defense. He is the one who is supposed to know everybody’s assignments and adjust those assignments before the play happens. There were times last year when the Raiders defense did not look like they knew their assignments, and other times when the signals were not adjusted correctly.
The Raiders placed a third round tender on Morrison which has left their middle linebacker and leading tackler, just dangling out there for all to look at. Right now, Morrison could be signed away for a third round pick that could ultimately be late in the third round. It’s almost as if the team would rather get some value for him rather than actually having him on the team this year.
It’s puzzling when you think about it, because this is a player who has started every game since his rookie year (80 games) and has accumulated well over 600 tackles in his career. Last year he was third in the entire league in total tackles. He led the Raiders in tackles for the fourth straight year and made a ton more plays at the point of attack, at or around the line of scrimmage.
Kirk Morrison deserves to play in Oakland. He has earned it. Maybe Kirk should be given a shot at OLB before the team just lets him go. I’m not sure if he is the leader the Raiders needs to have in the middle of the field, playing field sergeant, but Kirk at very least deserves a chance to be a starter on this team, doesn’t he?
Maybe the Raiders could use a propect like, Alabama line backer, Rolando McClain in the middle. He is a very smart player, who racked up over 100 tackles for the Crimson Tide en route to a NCAA National Championship. He is a field general who Nick Saban called, “Probably the best defensive football player in the country.”
Saban then went on to say, “He’s capable of doing it, he can do it, and I’m sure he will do it. This is a fine young man, he’s done a tremendous job, and he’s a great football player.”
That’s pretty high praise from Saban who actually encouraged Rolando to go on and play at the next level with the only stipulation being he had to eventually finish his degree.
McClain weighed in at his pro day at 249 pounds, and measured 6’4”. He started his junior season at Alabama at 258 pounds. This is a big linebacker. The kind of guy who holds up, the kind of player who studies, the kind of player who has proven to be a great leader for a defense that completely shut down Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game. The same Florida Gators led by Tim Tebow that won the two previous national championships…everybody remembers that team right?
After that,the Alabama defense completely dominated Texas in the National title game after a bit of a rough start. On a side note; How about those halfbacks? The Raiders need to make sure they save a draft pick for one of those guys. But back to the matter at hand, Rolando McClain is a beast. Try to find him in this video, I bet you can’t.
He’s a junior All-American who was the 2009 Butkus award winner for best LB in the country. CBSsports.com senior draft analyst Rob Rang said, “[He] has the size, the ability, and the toughness you look for.”
Last season, McClain had 14.5 tackles for loss and four sacks to go along with two interceptions. He ran a 4.68 forty at his school's pro day. But he already has two additional visits scheduled to work out for NFL scouts and he says he’d like to get his forty time down into the 4.5 range. He claims it would be to please himself more than the scouts.
It sounds to me like what he meant to say was; 'I want to get my forty time down to 4.5 to catch the attention of Mr. Davis and the Oakland Raiders because I want to be a part of what they are building out there.'
McClain's Alabama teammates call him a “man of action more than words.” He is a surefire bet to lead by example and the example he puts forth is the kind you want on your defense to make sure your players are doing what they are supposed to do day in and day out. Check out his highlights and tell me, Raider Nation, that you do not want this guy anywhere near your favorite team.
He could provide the Raiders with a very solid linebacking corp for at least the next five years, and probably longer. With the 250 pound McClain, the 6’5” 255 lbs Trevor Scott, and the newly added 255 pound Kamerion Wimbley, the Raiders will have gotten significantly bigger at the linebacker position. One might even say they, “fix[ed] your defense,” or that, “you fix[ed] it with big people.”
Raider fans, tell me if you think McClain is a good pick at eight overall in the 2010 draft. Or tell me why you don’t like the idea.
-- Bret Armstrong, TFDS Guest Contributor