It is the first game of what could very well be the post-Rolando McClain era in Oakland. Omar Gaither was tabbed to replace McClain as that starter. He was asked after the game about his experience.
"It was decent," said Gaither. "It could have been better. I felt a second slower, as far as reacting, in the first half. I guess that's why you go through training camp, all those OTAs and all that stuff. As far as how well I played, I don't know. You got to ask the coaches. But, I don't think it was the worst outing ever."
This is the first time Gaither has started at middle linebacker since 2007 with the Eagles. It was his second season in the NFL. He last started a game midway through last season as a member of the Panthers. He was not brought back to the Panthers this season and was unemployed until two weeks ago when the Raiders signed him. That is a quick transition from unemployed to starter.
"I am playing catch-up, but they don't care. Nobody cares. The Browns don't care, the Raiders don't care. My job is to come in here, coach feels confident enough in me to give me the keys, and I have to be able to do it right. The communication was good. I communicated well as far as getting everybody lined up and ready to go. It's just myself seeing those reps, seeing those live reps, and reacting a little faster."
Rolando McClain had the radio helmet duties stripped from him after week four and Philip Wheeler has worn it since then as an every down linebacker. He continued to wear the helmet to listen to the incoming plays but Gaither still had middle linebacker duties.
"Wheeler still is wearing helmet, but once you get the call in, the MIKE has to make the calls as far as getting lined up and things like that. I feel like that went well. The second half I felt a lot more comfortable and felt like I was playing a lot faster in the second half. The more reps I get, the better I'll play. So, we'll see next Thursday."
Thursday may not be the best choice to throw more things in his lap as it is a short week for the Raiders and he will be lined up opposite Peyton Manning. But if we soon see the green dot on his helmet, it would be yet another bit of proof at how little the Raiders trusted Rolando McClain in this defense.
Gaither didn't have a great day, finishing with just two solo tackles. He missed as many opportunities as he seized. It is uncertain how long a leash he will have in this lost season. He now has four games to audition for a spot on the Raiders' 2013 roster. With the crash course he is being given, he would have certainly earned it if he plays well.