Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 3, 2011
Looking for more from McClain and Jackson's big expectations

ALAMEDA - As the Raiders continue to struggle on defense, the spotlight will only become brighter on middle linebacker Rolando McClain.

"I think he's doing fine," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson. "We all wish that he made more plays. We all do. Every player wishes they made more plays. You want to go home feeling like the player of the game when you play. But we need to turn it up."

There's a lot of pressure on McClain, but it's fair to expect more from the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Linebackers taken that highly are supposed to be dominant.

The second-year player is the "quarterback" of the defense and second on the Raiders with 30 tackles behind safety Tyvon Branch's 32.

In an ideal world, McClain would be the leading tackler by season's end.

As the Raiders continue be suspect at best on defense, many continue to wonder when McClain will begin to play at an elite level.

"Rolando has a responsibility," Jackson said. "He's making calls and doing all the things middle linebackers do. He's really an extension of a defensive coordinator. He has to make sure that we get everybody on the same page, on top of that, be the type of player that we all know he can be. Again, it goes back to that consistency, that's what I'm talking about everywhere, whether it be a quarterback, middle linebacker, the line, the D-line, everybody."

Part of that means McClain needs to be a calming influence on defense while being disruptive during games.

McClain said playing Sunday against the Patriots wasn't a mind-rattling experience.

"I never get too high or too low for a game," McClain said. "I'm the quarterback of the defense and they all look at me so I'm rattled then they'll be rattled too. So I just try to stay calm no matter how big the game is."

McClain has made some nice defensive plays in pass coverage, but hasn't shown up in stuffing the run as much.

There have also been plays where he's missed open-field tackles that led to big plays.

McClain believes tackling wasn't an issue for him against the Patriots.

"I think I tackled pretty well," McClain said. "I haven't watched the film to see how everybody else tackled so I don't know."

*Jackson said with a 2-2 record, he's still not scaling back expectations for the Raiders. Jackson sounds like anything short of winning the division and more would be a disappointment.

It's the right approach to take considering going 6-0 in the division last season yielded no playoff berth.

Jackson even mentioned the Super Bowl:

"I expected to be 4-0. I really did. I'm not going to back off of that, and we're 2-2, so I'm disappointed but not discouraged because I know what's in the locker room. I've said this before. I have to keep coaching and keep pushing and keep grinding on these players. And these players have to keep responding, and they've responded every time I've asked them to. Maybe not as fast as I want them to, maybe not as fast as everybody wants them to, but I know the message is there, and it's clear. And I think they know what needs to happen, and I trust them that they will get it done. We have a great group of leaders in that room. I call on them, and I call on the rest of our football team and our coaching staff. We're not backing down from what the expectation is here by no stretch of the imagination. It's not going to change. We're going to win the AFC West. We're going to do everything we can to get in the playoffs and go challenge for a Super Bowl. I am not backing down from that."

*Turns out tight end Richard Gordon broke his hand during the Patriots game. Doesn't appear to be serious because he returned to the game with a cast and it doesn't sound as if Jackson expects him to miss any time.

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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