On July 8th, 2010, the Raiders released MLB and Special Teams Specialist, Isaiah Ekejiuba (50). Ekejiuba is in his 6th NFL season. He was 1/3 of the Bermuda Triangle along with Jared Cooper (40-Retired) and Ricky Brown (57). These three hamstrung Returners in the kicking game, and gave our defense long fields to work with.
Cooper retired 2 years ago and was immediately replaced with Tyvon Branch (33) on Special Teams. Last year Branch was relieved of Special Teams duties and started at SS. Without Cooper or Branch we saw a decline in our kick coverage skills last season. Now with the departure of Ekejiuba, will we see a further decline in our coverage skills? Or have we picked up 2 Special Teams Aces to assist Ricky Brown in containing the Returner?
Special Teams is where most rookies cut their teeth in the NFL, so I think we have some options; however there are individuals with such amazing skills/talents bringing down the returner that they build a prosperous NFL career out of doing it. Jared Cooper and Isaiah Ekejiuba are these kinds of players. Serviceable backups at their positions, but never quite good enough to be the relied on starter; however, so devastating on Special Teams that they can change the momentum of the game. With the demands of Offense, Defense and development of future players, the 53 man roster leaves very little room for Special Teams. The Raiders have never ignored the importance of Special Teams, so I am sure they have some adjustments in mind for this.
The bigger question is who will replace Ekejiuba at MLB. You’re thinking, don’t we have a MLB? Exactly, we have A MLB. Who do we have to backup Rolando McClain (55)? Ekejiuba was our only other MLB before his release. Who steps in if McClain gets hurt? Do we plan on him playing through the pain? Do we go to a 2 LB set and add another S? No. I think the Raiders have found a MLB in this year’s players. Who is it?