Oakland Raider Rolando McClain: What Improvements Can the Raiders Expect in Year 2?

OAKLAND CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Danny Amendola #16 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Rolando McClain #51 of the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 19 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

One of the big things I am looking forward to with the 2011 Oakland Raiders is the improvements made by the members of the amazingly successful 2010 rookie class. With a year of NFL football under their belt you'd like to think that these guys will come back strong and ready to take the next step. More than any other player I am expecting the biggest jump in performance by the man in the middle, Rolando McClain.

If McClain can elevate his game from his rookie season it will go a long way towards solidifying the run defense. And as a middle linebacker, the QB of the defense, you'd think that jump in performance for players from year one to year to two is common place. It is a complex position, with a lot of reads and responsibilities. 

With that in mind I decided to look the inside linebackers currently in the NFL and were there teams primary starters as a rookie and compare their stats from year one to year two to see what we kind of gains we can expect from Ro' in his second year. Jump over for the results....

Let's look at the stats first, and then see what kind of conclusions we can draw. I tried to grab as many players as I could that are currently playing. Some linebackers switch from inside to outside, and I may have missed some, or included one or two that compiled there early stats while playing on the outside.

Rolando McClain

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
15
15
89
59
26
1
6
0.5
0
2nd ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

 

James Laurinaitis

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
120
107
13
2
5
2
1
2nd
16
16
114
98
16
1
5
3
0

 

Jerod Mayo

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
128
100
28
0
4
0
1
2nd
13
12
103
70
33
0
1
1.5
1

 

Curtis Lofton

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
15
94
67
27
0
3
1
1
2nd
16
16
133
105
28
0
2
0
2

 

Patrick Willis

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
174
135
39
0
5
4
1
2nd
16
16
131
109
32
1
10
1
2

 

Jon Beason

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
140
106
34
1
6
0
0
2nd
16
16
138
110
28
3
8
0
0

 

A.J. Hawk

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
119
82
37
1
6
3.5
1
2nd
16
16
105
78
27
2
4
1
1

 

Ray Lewis

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
14
13
110
94
16
1
6
2.5
0
2nd
16
16
183
155
28
1
11
4
1

 

Brian Urlacher

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
14
123
97
26
2
5
8
0
2nd
16
16
116
89
27
3
8
6
2

 

DeAndre Levy

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
10
85
61
24
1
5
0
1
2nd
11
11
72
50
22
2
4
0
0

 

Kirk Morrison

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
15
116
91
25
0
2
0
0
2nd
16
16
128
102
26
2
5
1
1

 

Jonathan Vilma

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
14
107
77
30
3
5
2
0
2nd
16
16
169
124
45
1
6
0.5
5

 

David Harris

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
9
127
90
37
0
3
5
2
2nd
11
11
75
52
23
0
1
1
0

 

Lofa Tatupu

Year
Games
Started
Tackles
Solo
Asst
Int
Pass Def
Sack
Forced Fumble
1st
16
16
104
85
19
3
9
4
0
2nd
16
16
123
92
31
1
7
1.5
2

 

Conclusions: Well, those results came out a lot different than I anticipated. First, it is clear that it takes a special player to start at middle linebacker as a rookie. It is a pretty select club.

The next thing that jumped out is that most of these guys posted fairly similar stats in years one and two. In fact, of the 13 players on this list only five recorded more tackles in their second year. I know you can't measure a linebacker by tackles, but pick any stat on here and the results are going to be similar. And while you can't measure the value of a player by stats you can get a pretty good idea of a player's improvement or lack thereof by tracking the change of their stats as opposed to pitting their stats against other players.

The next thing that jumped out at me is that by looking at these stats it is pretty easy to come to the conclusion that Rolando McClain had the least impact of any of these guys in his rookie year. There is more to playing middle linebacker than stats, but almost all of these guys' numbers dwarf Rolando's.

The one area where McClain compares favorably well is in pass defense, and that was the area everyone thought he would struggle to adjust to in the NFL.

Only Lofa Tatupu had more passes defensed as a rookie, and both guys did so playing in a John Marshal defense. More than the system though I think is the fact that pass coverage is Tatupu's strength.

The player with the stats closest to Rolando's is Detroit's DeAndre Levy. However, he only started 10 games as a rookie in '09 and then struggled with injuries last year and only played in 10 games.

The only other player on this list that checked in with less than 100 tackles is Curtis Lofton. Lofton followed his rookie season up with an outstanding second year in '09, and he looks to be a mainstay at middle linebacker for the Falcons.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, we can't expect Ro' to get better just because he is getting more comfortable with the game. In fact, if we are too expect anything by looking at the others it would be to expect similar production and output as his rookie year. And that is not good enough.

Ro' has to get better, or he is going to be a disappointment. He has to make more of an impact. He needs to me more consistent getting off blocks and dissecting plays.

It is worth mentioning that he was slowed in the second half of the season with a foot injury—an injury that kept him from practicing and caused him to miss a game.

He certainly showed enough flashes in his rookie that would lead us to believe that he could make a jump in production like Curtis Lofton or Ray Lewis. But on the other hand there is enough statistical evidence on this list to worry me that he may never develop into the impact middle linebacker most of us envisioned.

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