Originally published on SBReport.net on May 18, 2012
Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain was sentenced to 180 days in prison for his incident last year that involved the middle linebacker assaulting and discharging a firearm beside a man’s head in his hometown of Decatur, Ala.
While little is known as to what may happen to McClain next, the Raiders must continue forward as if they will not have him. Whether the new regime in general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen punish or even cut McClain is still to be seen, along with any consequences received from commissioner Roger Goodell.
As it stands, McClain’s 180 days is set to begin on June 1, which makes it incredibly unlikely for him to suit up in the Silver & Black for the 1012 season.
With little cap room and limited free agent linebackers, the Raiders are most likely going to look to replace McClain with a current player on the roster.
Oakland drafted two linebackers in April’s draft, Miles Burris out of San Diego State and Nathan Stupar out of Penn State.
Burris is listed at 6’3”, 236 pounds and has experience playing both inside and outside linebacker positions while at San Diego State. Burris is an athletic, hard-nosed linebacker that brings hard hits and is a sure tackler. The weakness in Burris lies in his ability to cover, a similar weakness to McClain who often looked lost or too slow in coverage.
Stupar, the nephew of former Raiders quarterback Jeff Hostetler, was a seventh-round pick and was used sparingly during his tenure at Penn State. While in college, Stupar showed great motion and ability to diagnose plays. The problem is Stupar was used primarily as an outside linebacker and has the tendency to get swallowed up by blockers. Stupar has already stated that the Raiders intend to move him as an inside linebacker.
The Raiders also have two veterans in Aaron Curry and Travis Goethel who they can turn to in an attempt to replace McClain.
Curry, who was acquired by trade midseason last year, has not lined up in the middle much but did appear as a middle linebacker for some snaps during their OTA session on Tuesday.
The most likely replacement lies in Travis Goethel, a third-year player out of Arizona State who has been hurt for much of the past two years. Goethel has shown he is a solid instinctive player and has looked good in the limited amount of preseason work he has received.
In fact, Goethel hasn’t played a down in the NFL since 2010, where he appeared in eight games and recorded nine tackles. Despite his injury issues, the former regime in Oakland liked what Goethel brought to the field, and if he can remain healthy, Goethel remains the favorite to start at the middle linebacker position in place of McClain.
McClain not only brought bad publicity to the Oakland Raiders, but he also put them in a tough situation. Head coach Dennis Allen has stated he likes the talent McClain brings to the field, but now he may never see him on the field playing under him. No matter what they chose, the Raiders must find a way to shore up the middle linebacker position as the defense was already a weak unit last season.