Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain brings down the Patriots' BenJarvus Green-Ellis. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
As the Raiders last week were preparing to play the Patriots, Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain told reporters that New England is “a finesse team.”
Then on Sunday that finesse team ran the ball down Oakland’s throat for 183 yards in a 31-19 victory.
Now McClain is catching heat for playing like a finesse linebacker.
Former Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski, now a sports commentator for Comcast SportsNet, saw what Patriots running backs Stevan Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis did to the Raiders defense and took a shot at the former Alabama All-American.
“Rolando McClain, I don’t see him,” Romanowski said on CSN. “He’s 6-4, 255. Make some plays. I want to see the guy knock the crap out of some people. Be around the football.”
Against the Patriots – and two weeks earlier in a loss at Buffalo – the Raiders defense had some lapses in tackling. McClain, the middle linebacker, and outside linebackers Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley have been under the spotlight for Oakland’s failure to stop the run.
Oakland ranks 29th in the NFL against the run, giving up an average of 136 yards per game.
Head coach Hue Jackson’s pitch this year has been to “build a bully,” but Oakland’s run defense has looked more like a 98-pound weakling this season.
When McClain was asked by reporters what is wrong, he said, “If I knew I’d fix it.”
“Obviously I don’t,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur. “I think we can be pretty good and I’ve got confidence in the guys around me and the coaching staff that we will get things fixed and we will be pretty good.”
McClain came into the league as the eighth overall draft choice from the Crimson Tide, where he was a Butkus Award winner and a member of a national championship team.
Then, in Oakland, he took over for Kirk Morrison, a steady performer who’s now playing for Buffalo.
Jackson said this week he has confidence in McClain.
“I think he’s doing fine,” Jackson told the Chronicle. “We all wish that he made more plays. We all do … My message to them today was we need to take it to another level. Everybody. Coaches, players, everybody, we’re going to take this thing to another level, because we need to, and we will.”
The Raiders won’t have to wait long for their next test. On Sunday, they travel to play the Texans, the fourth-best rushing team in the league, averaging 148.5 yards per game with a 1-2 punch of Ben Tate and Arian Foster.