Raiders checklist #4

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain never found his comfort zone as a rookie, not on the field or with the media. By the time his first NFL season came to a close, McClain couldn't wait to get away from both for a bit.

That has to change, both on defense and with reporters.

For starters, McClain needs to get a better understanding of the defense. While he's generally acknowledged as a huge film guy, it was clear from watching McClain that there were numerous instances where he didn't have a clue what to do. That was particularly true in passing situations, as McClain routinely dropped two or three steps back then stood there aimlessly while the play unfolded around him. Oakland's biggest weakness defensively is its inability to stop the run. The Raiders finished 29th against the run in 2010, giving up an average of 133.6 yards on the ground each week. Many of the yards came right up the middle, where McClain should have been to make the play. We'll give him a break because it was his first year, but McClain has no more margin for error. His fellow starting linebackers — Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves — played well for the most part, with Wimbley really providing a much-needed lift for the defense from his outside spot.

McClain? His name barely came up during games. The most notable play he made as a rookie came in Week 2 when he bodyslammed Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola to the turf at the Oakland Coliseum.

He was also surly with reporters, brushing away questions with a flick of his hand if he even chose to speak to them at all. Those same reporters might be more eager to pile on if McClain struggles again this season.

McClain doesn't need to worry about the media so much as he does opposing running backs. Handle that and the rest will take care of itself.

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