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Rolando McClain: Too Much Pressure?

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 5:  Rolando McClain #25 of the Alabama Crimson Tide carries a rose as he runs of the field after their 32-13 win against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome on December 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIJune 7, 2010

We all know the beginning of the story: Rolando McClain was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft in April.  Since being drafted, McClain has been viewed by many as the savior of the Raiders defense, and in particular, the run defense. 

McClain will surely benefit the Raiders greatly, but how long will it be until we see him pay dividends?

I can remember four other Raiders who were drafted high and haven't yet shown us why they were drafted that high.  Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey were all thrown into the fire and struggled heavily.

McClain is expected to start as the middle linebacker, the anchor of the 4-3 defense.  He is the quarterback of the defense.  He was excellent at Alabama, but Darren McFadden was excellent at Arkansas.  The NFL is a new level.

McClain is being counted on to fix the run defense, call defensive plays and audibles, and bring in a championship mentality in his first season.  That seems like too much pressure to put on a rookie, even one as solid as Rolando McClain.

If I were Jon Marshall, I would give the green dot helmet (the helmet that receives the calls from the defensive coordinator) to a veteran like Nnamdi Asomugha or Richard Seymour. 

Let McClain slowly phase himself into the NFL.  The Raiders have had more success with players who start slow.  Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy and Tyvon Branch all excelled with limited playing time as rookies and look promising as starters now.

In the next three years, we will know whether or not it was right to put McClain in the starters role immediately or if maybe the Raiders should have kept Kirk Morrison around for another season.

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