Redskins

McClain adjusts to limited role with Raiders

201210141452535597997-p2.jpeg

McClain adjusts to limited role with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Rolando McClain arrived in Oakland two years ago expected to be the impact middle linebacker who could transform a Raiders defense that had struggled for years to stop the run.

Less than halfway through his third season with the Raiders, McClain has been relegated to spot duty. McClain is now only being used in base defensive packages, playing a season-low 17 defensive plays last week in Atlanta.

While McClain figures to get more time Sunday against the more run-oriented Jacksonville Jaguars, he will remain a part-time player for the time being.

``It makes my job easy, just focus on base whenever that is and go from there,'' McClain said Thursday. ``You understand the situation, you understand the transition whatever that may be. You're not naive to the fact of what's going on. But at the same time you're still a team player. If coach thinks that's the best thing for the defense then by all means do it. I can focus on the base downs and that's what I put my energy toward.''

A heralded college star at Alabama who helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship, McClain came to Oakland as the eighth overall pick in 2010.

But he has failed to produce, recording just 5 1/2 sacks, one interception, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in 35 career games.

McClain averaged about 68 defensive snaps a game the first four weeks, staying on the field in almost all of Oakland's alignments. But the coaches reassessed things during the bye week and decided to take McClain out of the nickel package.

That led him to play only 17 of 55 defensive snaps last week in a 23-20 loss at Atlanta.

``I think when we went back and looked and saw how many plays that Rolando was playing, it had a factor in his conditioning,'' coach Dennis Allen said. ``We felt like him not playing quite as many plays would help him to play better and be more effective, and I think it had that effect in this game.''

Allen said McClain had his most productive game on a per play basis this season in the limited time, with his biggest contribution coming when he stopped Jason Snelling for a 1-yard loss on third down from the 1 late in the third quarter.

``You make the plays that are there to make,'' McClain said. ``Every ball doesn't come into your area. Every run doesn't come your way. You're not able to make every tackle.''

With McClain set to make more than $4 million next year and a possible suspension for legal trouble off the field looming, he could be in his final season with the Raiders.

McClain was convicted in May in Decatur, Ala., of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in the city limits and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. McClain is appealing the conviction to Morgan County Circuit Court and will have a jury trial, likely after the season. The NFL has not yet determined if McClain will be punished by the league.

The Raiders were forced into a five defensive back set much of last week against the Falcons, who often spread the field out with three wide receivers. That doesn't figure to be the case Sunday.

Jacksonville has a struggling second-year quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and an elite runner in Jones-Drew so it figures the Jaguars will stick with the run game and McClain will get more time.

The last time these two teams met, the Jaguars ran for 234 yards in a 38-31 victory that McClain missed with a foot injury.

``All I remember is them running the ball,'' McClain said. ``You have to take that personally. We have to go out and try to at least stop that run. If you don't do anything else, stop the run, let them know you can't do this two times in a row.''

The demotion of McClain led to significantly more playing time for rookie outside linebacker Miles Burris, who had been leaving the field in nickel situations the first four games.

It also meant that outside linebacker Philip Wheeler had to take on additional responsibility. Wheeler was given the ``green dot'' helmet, allowing him to hear the defensive calls from an assistant coach on the sideline, and made the calls on the field for the Raiders.

Wheeler said he made defensive calls in college but had never before done it in the pros.

``It makes me work harder,'' Wheeler said. ``It's forced me to get in the film room more, so I can make better calls and do what's right for the defense, and I'm up to the job.''

NOTES: CB Shawntae Spencer (sprained right foot) is off crutches for the first time since getting hurt in Week 2 in Miami but is not yet ready to practice. ... RB Taiwan Jones did not practice after banging his knee Wednesday. ... RT Khalif Barnes (groin) and TE Richard Gordon remain sidelined. ... LB Aaron Curry, who began the season on the physically unable to perform list because of injured knees, practiced for a second straight day. ... The Raiders have been granted a one-day extension from the league to sell enough tickets to avoid a local blackout of Sunday's game.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

smith-allen_otas_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should not expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that his the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side. But since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat the whole offense will be harder to defend

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Tandler on Twitter

My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

In case you missed it

Quick Links

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.