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Today I have been wondering about how this off-season has been handled and what improvements we can expect from maturing young players and the replacements that were drafted or signed.
I am going to start out with the position that I believe was upgraded the most. That position, believe it or not, is NOT, quarterback, where we replaced our third string QB, JaMarcus Russell, with Jason Campbell, rather it is the quarterback of the defense, Rolando McClain replacing fan favorite Kirk Morrison.
Any Championship team needs an elite middle linebacker. Any Championship team needs that MLB to be the vocal and spiritual leader of that team.
Unfortunately for Kirk Morrison and the Oakland defense, Kirk was too nice of a guy, especially to the opposition before and after games to REALLY be a Raider MLB.
Kirk was also too keen at using his speed to get to the outside instead of using his strength to secure the middle. He was easily washed by linemen and had a knack for over-pursuit. He also took a backseat as a leader. Did even one Raider say that they were upset because they lost their vocal and spiritual leader when Kirk was traded to Jacksonvile? If so, I didn't hear it.
Instead, what I heard, in unison, was praise for Rolando McClain as a leader and how much players have looked forward to playing with him.
So, what does Rolando McClain bring to the table that "Captain" Kirk didn't:
"[Rolando McClain] can help us out a lot, he can help us in the run; he's a bigger guy, he can stuff fullbacks in the whole before they even get started. He's a smart guy, athletic guy, so that's gonna help us out in the passing game. His intelligence is gonna help us because he is gonna know the defense, he's gonna know the checks that the offense is making, so he'll be able to check for us, just like a QB does, he'll be able to do that for the defense. He can help us out a lot, he's still gotta get the playbook down and it's very early for him, training camp can be very difficult for a rookie, so there's gonna be a learning curve, but hopefully it works out."
According to Nnamdi he is a Bigger Guy than Kirk Morrison. he is smart and athletic. he is also going to make the entire defense better by reading the offense and calling audibles for the defense.
This is a HUGE step up from Kirk Morrison, whom I loved, but in my position was better suited for an outside position.
With McClain in the middle and the additions of Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, our linebacking crew has gotten much bigger. With Sam Williams, Ricky Brown, Thomas Howard and Trevor Scott already in the mix, I have to say that not only has the Middle Linebacking position been upgraded, but, the entire unit as a whole is the most improved of any this off-season
Who will be starting, barring injury, when the season starts. Will be play a 3-4, 4-3, 2-5, hybrid? No one knows, probably not even the Defensive Coaches, but, the options are much better than last year, when we had undersized linebackers getting eaten alive by fullbacks and linemen.