For the past few years, the Raiders' run defense has been one of the worst in the league. The problem comes from poor play at the tackle positions and lack of strength at middle linebacker.
A solution to half of this problem would be to draft Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
As I'm sure most of you know, the Crimson Tide won the BCS National Championship this year, and McClain had a big impact.
During the regular season, McClain had 105 total tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, 14 QB hurries, two interceptions, three passes broken up, and a forced fumble.
For his outstanding play, McClain was awarded the Butkus Award and Lambert Award, recognizing him as the best linebacker in college football. He was also recognized on several All-American first teams.
McClain enters the draft with one year of college eligibility left. As a true freshman, McClain started eight games at middle linebacker, had 75 tackles, and was named to the freshman All-SEC team. In his junior year, he started every game, had 95 tackles and three sacks, and was named third-team All-American.
Kirk Morrison has been the Raiders' starting middle linebacker for the last five years, and has led the team in tackles each of those years. Although he has played well, Morrison would serve the team a lot better as an outside linebacker.
Morrison and fellow linebacker Thomas Howard are free agents, and it's likely that only one will be brought back next year.
Howard has made some spectacular plays for the Silver and Black, but he is also inconsistent. He is good in pass coverage, but very weak against the run.
I personally would like to bring back both, but if only one can be had, I say we keep Morrison and move him to the outside. That would leave an open spot for McClain to take over.
If Oakland finds another DT through free agency (Tank Johnson?) and drafts McClain, the run defense would improve greatly. I also think Morrison would have a career year playing at his more natural position.
Another option would be to re-sign both Howard and Morrison and switch the defense to a 3-4.
DT Tommy Kelly would be the nose tackle, with Seymour and Ellis as the ends. Trevor Scott and Howard would be the OLBs, with Morrison and McClain as the ILBs. This would leave quite a bit of depth for the D-line, with Shaughnessy, Richardson, and Warren rotating in.
I think Oakland's personnel is more suited to be a 3-4 than a 4-3, and would thrive as a 3-4.
That's what I think we should do; who knows what Al will do. Don't be surprised to see Usain Bolt holding up a Silver and Black jersey with the No. 1 on draft day. Anything can happen in Raider Nation.
In an unrelated note, I would like to congratulate long snapper Jon Condo for his selection to the Pro Bowl. Condo is the most overlooked aspect of our superior kicking game.