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Camp questions: Can starting LBs defend the pass?

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, July 18th, 2010 at 11:48 am in Oakland Raiders.

With reporting day less than two weeks away, the sixth in a series of questions and issues to be sorted out in Napa:

Can the Raiders starting linebackers hold up in pass coverage?

Look for Darren McFadden to be running circle routes, drag routes and screen passes virtually every day in Napa, and not simply because it’s a good way for quarterback Jason Campbell to pick up a lot of yardage.

When the Raiders open the regular season against Chris Johnson and the run-heavy Tennessee Titans, it will be with an entirely new group of linebackers from the 2009 opener, health permitting, of course. In place of weakside linebacker Thomas Howard will be Trevor Scott, top draft pick Rolando McClain takes over for longtime leading tackler Kirk Morrison and trade acquisition Kamerion Wimbley is the strong side starter for Rickey Brown.

Over the past four years, when Morrison played middle linebacker and Howard took over the weak side as a rookie, the Raiders finished 29th, 31st, 31st and 25th in rushing defense and gave up an NFL high 86 rushing touchdowns in 64 games.

The two were regarded as good pass defenders, with the highlight coming in 2007 when Howard had six interceptions and Morrison four as they combined for 10 of the team’s 18 interceptions.

But there was no getting around (or maybe too much getting around _ as well as getting through) the fact that Oakland was on the small side even if they were mobile in space. With Morrison intercepting two passes in his last 32 games and Howard three in his last 43, it wasn’t as if the Raiders were getting the payoff in turnovers for whatever they gave up against the run.

All three of the new starters are listed at 255 pounds, but visually, the difference in size is striking. It’s the first thing people noticed about McClain as opposed to Morrison, and both Wimbley and Scott have the capability to play with their hand down as an end _ and in fact have done so.

That ought to help the Raiders against the run. At least one prominent former Raiders defensive lineman would grumble about the inability of the club’s linebackers to get off blocks and plug gaps.

And although Howard remains on the roster, ostensibly to emerge on passing downs, defensive coordinator John Marshall can expect a steady diet of short passes to running backs and/or second tight ends designed to test the coverage skills of Wimbley, Scott and McClain.

When predecessor Rob Ryan attempted to play with 260-pound plus outside linebackers Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons in 2004, it lasted as long as it took for Tom Brady to take it apart in the opener. By Week 2, Morrison was at weak side linebacker for Irons, and the Raiders were reducing Brayton’s snaps as well and playing more nickel, getting Nnamdi Asomugha more snaps along with starters Charles Woodson and Fabian Washington.

Morrison replaced Danny Clark in the middle in his second season.

Wimbley has four passes defensed and one interception in four years as a Cleveland starter as a strong side linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Scott’s athletic skills are not in question, nor are his hand _ he was a tight end in college before moving to defensive end. But there are bound to be growing pains and he learns to play standing up and how to move his hips and play in coverage.

As for McClain, whatever criticisms there were of his game in college stemmed from his ability in pass coverage. While the Raiders wouldn’t have taken him at No. 8 if they didn’t think he was an every-down linebacker, some clubs were wary of spending a premium pick for fear he’d be off the field in nickel and dime coverages.

Previous camp questions:

How good is Mike Mitchell?

Can Mario be super?

Can Higgins return to ’08 form?

Where is Seymour’s ripple effect?

Can Bush be a beast?

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  • Just Fire Baby

    Must admit, Jamarcus did look pretty good in that Ravens 2nd half. WR’s did make a few tough catches for him.

    Just goes to show how important not making the killer turnovers and managing the game are, and how little important completion %’s are.

    He, and us, were really controlling the game and the momentum, and than he throws into triple coverage on his side of the field, on 1st down no less, and the momentum is flipped immediately.

    Just can’t do that.

  • RaiderRockstar

    I still have not seen Mike Mitchell make a play…..2nd round pick?

    ***

    not in pass coverage. no big hits on a RB (yet) either

    we’ll see. if his soph season is anything like the one Tyvon Branch had, he’ll be a force anywhere on the field!

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    the ROG is ready for 2010 Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 7:59 am
    Dakota dont even worry about it…………Bo doesnt know shyt and will shut up after week 1…..promise that

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Again:

    DMAC is a fumbling, stumbling, spindly-legged, injury prone disgrace to the Raiders uniform. No jukes. No breakaway wheels. Hands that have yet to be used for anything except turnovers.

    Worst pick ever, next to the walrus. Dakota should be fired.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Must admit, Jamarcus did look pretty good in that Ravens 2nd half. WR’s did make a few tough catches for him.

    ***

    not near as good as Charlie Frye!

  • Just Fire Baby

    MM34 caused a fumble in the first Bronco game, which McFadden gave right back, and had more sacks than the first two DE’s taken in the draft COMBINED.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Stevie Brown can play, especially as a special teamer. Good power & speed, and a sure tackler. His man coverage skills are an unknown.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    …which McFadden gave right back…

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Oh yeah, THAT game. LOL

  • Just Fire Baby

    Saw that Inception last night, pretty interesting.

    Was 2.5 hours but didn’t seem like it.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Why do I get this strange feeling that we’re gonna kick the crap out of the Titans in Week 1?

    seriously …

    If John Henderson sticks and starts, game over.

    barring significant injuries to other key players during training camp & preseason (of course)

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    109.RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 8:36 am
    Why do I get this strange feeling that we’re gonna kick the crap out of the Titans in Week 1?

    seriously …

    If John Henderson sticks and starts, game over.

    barring significant injuries to other key players during training camp & preseason (of course)
    ++++++++++++

    You can feel the dawn of the McFadden era.

  • BigTed707

    Saw Stevie Brown play last year, and would rather have Stevie Wonder give it a whirl.
    ———————
    Yer Killin’ Me. I am rootin’ for S. Brown to make the team. I’ve only reviewed his stats (6′,211 lbs,4.39X40, 80 tackles, 1 sack, 1 int, 1 ffumble and rec.)

    I haven’t seen him play, other than some highlights.

    Seems to me that Jerome Boyd was taken for his “Raider Speed” – so at least we know he’s fast.(6’2″, 217lbs., 4.33X40, 80 tackles in 2009)

    Due to our improved defensive line – I hope QBs will be eating grass and throwing ducks – Making my boy T. Howard look good in coverage. (maybe even sneak #53 into that FS spot now and again to spell Eugene.)

  • RaiderRockstar

    You can feel the dawn of the McFadden era.

    ***

    I think you’re right

    the Titans defense doesn’t scare me one bit

    I look for a big showing offensively both running and passing. Hue Jackson is gonna have these guys ready to play and I expect some trash talk and swagger too

    John Henderson is the key imo. If he sticks, it makes the entire defense better. Chris Johnson has that unique ability to take a game over running and catching short passes and our defense has been awful at giving up big plays for quite some time now. Vince Young sucks, so if we contain CJ … they stand NO CHANCE of winning. no John Henderson could mean running lanes, big plays, play action passes to the TE, etc.

  • BigTed707

    If John Henderson sticks and starts, game over.
    _____________________
    I hope Tommy Kelly benefits from being next to this guy.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    You can feel the dawn of the McFadden era.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    The DB?

  • RaiderRockstar

    Ted: let me tell you something that you already know

    TK has not played up to that monster contract he received several years back. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been asked to take a paycut already. If we gets outplayed by Desmond Bryant and/or Lamarr Houston … he could end up being a surprise camp casualty

    Seymour could play 4-3 DT next to big John easily. and that would still leave Shaughnessy, Houston, Richardson at (base) end with pass rushing specialists Groves & Scott coming off the edge on 3rd downs

    and Bryant could come in for Henderson on 3rd downs for even more penetration up the middle.

  • RaiderRockstar

    without Tommy Kelly -

    DL: Shaughnessy, Houston, Richardson, Seymour, Henderson, Bryant, Groves

    that leaves 1 spot open for either Gunheim or Heard imo (wont get many snaps in the rotation anyways)

    and Scott will rush the QB from DE on 3rd downs, probably leaving Thomas Howard to fill that WLB spot (in coverage)

  • Raider Dell

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 6:28 am
    RAIDER NATION!!

    Thanks to Plunketthead and BCZ24 the FFL is closed.

    We have 12 nation members ready to battle it out this upcoming season.

    If their is a demand for another league, I will step up and commission that league also.

    Thanks to all who have participated.

    ***

    Dell: you could always join mine?

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    I tried, your league is full.

    Congrats. Have a fun time.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    The Stupidity and Hypocrisy of the Austerity Movement

    There has been growing talk of the need to reign in reckless government spending. Regrettably, this talk is not based in any knowledge of economics or history.. Let me explain why.

    A Brief History of the Deficit

    According to the Bureau of Public Debt, the US has been running a structural deficit for the last ten years, not just the last year. Here is a chart of the total amount of federal debt outstanding at the end of each federal fiscal year for the last ten years:

    09/30/2009 $ 11,909,829,003,511.75
    09/30/2008 $ 10,024,724,896,912.49
    09/30/2007 $ 9,007,653,372,262.48
    09/30/2006 $ 8,506,973,899,215.23
    09/30/2005 $ 7,932,709,661,723.50
    09/30/2004 $ 7,379,052,696,330.32
    09/30/2003 $ 6,783,231,062,743.62
    09/30/2002 $ 6,228,235,965,597.16
    09/30/2001 $ 5,807,463,412,200.06
    09/30/2000 $ 5,674,178,209,886.86

    The reason for this yearly increase of at least $400 billion in net new federal debt/year is simple: the US cut taxes but didn’t make a proportionate cut in spending. As a result, total debt outstanding increased.

    If the austerity movement was really about the increase in federal debt, it would have emerged sometime after 2004-2005 when the US’ structural deficit issue started to emerge in the data.

    A Brief Explanation of GDP

    Gross domestic product is comprised of four elements. Consumer spending (C) + Investment (I) + Exports (exports-imports) + government spending (g). Here is the equation:

    C+I+X+G = GDP.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, government spending has accounted for about 20% of US GDP since 1970.

    In other words — government spending is always part of the national economic equation.

    A Brief History of Austerity

    Other countries have tried it.

    Neil Shearing, economist at Capital Economics in London, said the real lesson from the region was that, “aggressive fiscal consolidation at a time when the private sector is also retrenching is likely to lead to much weaker levels of activity and a surge in unemployment”.

    Much like Spain, Ireland and the UK, the Baltic states were badly hit by the bursting of a credit bubble in 2008 that sent their economies into freefall and their budget deficits soaring.

    While others cushioned the impact with stimulus spending, the Baltic trio plunged straight into austerity. As a result, they suffered the deepest recessions in the European Union last year, with Latvia’s economy shrinking by 18 per cent.

    The region has since stabilised but, for many ordinary people it still feels like a depression. Wages have plummeted while unemployment has rocketed, with more than a fifth of the Latvian labour force out of work.

    And yet others have tried it:

    As Europe’s major economies focus on belt-tightening, they are following the path of Ireland. But the once thriving nation is struggling, with no sign of a rapid turnaround in sight.

    Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations.

    “When our public finance situation blew wide open, the dominant consideration was ensuring that there was international investor confidence in Ireland so we could continue to borrow,” said Alan Barrett, chief economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland. “A lot of the argument was, ‘Let’s get this over with quickly.’ ”

    Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

    Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed — those out of work for a year or more — have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent.

    In other words, the policy of austerity is an abject failure.

    And what about the countries that use massive government stimulus? China spent $586 billion on their stimulus plan to thwart the Great Recession. Now they are having to put the brakes on their expansion to prevent overheating.

    So what have we learned?

    1.) This new found love of lower government spending is politically motivated. It has nothing to do with altruism or love of country. It’s about the November elections. Period.

    2.) Government spending has been and always will be part of the the GDP equation

    3.) Countries that tried austerity are worse off for it.

    4.) Countries that inject massive amounts of the proper stimulus (such as infrastructure spending) grow at high rates.

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/07/stupidity-and-hypocrisy-of-austerity.html

  • RaiderRockstar

    I tried, your league is full.

    Congrats. Have a fun time.

    ***

    thanks Dell. you’re the man!

    how was your weekend?

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Sarah Palin ‘refudiates’ critics
    (AFP) – 1 hour ago

    NEW YORK — Sarah Palin raised linguists’ eyebrows this weekend when she urged Muslims to “refudiate” a controversial mosque — then defended her garbled English as Shakespearean.

    The darling of the Republican right and possible 2012 White House candidate coined the word Sunday in a Tweet criticizing plans for a mosque at Ground Zero in New York.

    At first Palin appeared embarrassed, deleting the message on her Twitter page and replacing it with a call for Muslims to “refute” the plan, this time using a real word, but questionable grammar.

    Her next update returned to “refudiate” and now proudly proclaimed Palin as heir both to literary genius William Shakespeare and Republican ex-president George W. Bush, famous for his repeated howlers, such as “misunderestimate.”

    “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language,” Palin Tweeted. “Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ifTotWBZY02FzI425EmHKVF1rt4w

  • BigTed707

    If we gets outplayed by Desmond Bryant and/or Lamarr Houston … he could end up being a surprise camp casualty
    ________________________
    That is a big “if”…

    Seymour moving to DT full-time is also a big “if”.

    I’m thinking TK could benefit as a UT “if” J. Henderson sticks as a run stuffing NT.

    I’d like Seymour, J. Henderson, Kelly, and Shaughnessy as our front four – with tons of depth and versatility at almost all positions.

  • Raider Dell

    RRS

    I had a great weekend, thanks.

    Who has signed up to be in your league? Can we trade FFL league members between us. “LOL”

  • RaiderRockstar

    Who has signed up to be in your league? Can we trade FFL league members between us.

    ***

    Dell: haha!

    maybe ???

    I’m not sure who signed up really, since I don’t have access to fantasy football through work

    from this blog I know EMraider, Midwest, AIG and Marley have joined besides myself

    some names I didn’t recognize.

    thats fine with me as long as they are Raider fans!

  • Ataxia

    Have any of you thought of the possibility that if something were to happen to romac like an injury we really have no depth at mlb at all, we have so many outside lb but besides romac no one in the middle and no rickey brown isnt capable of being a decent starter.

  • RaiderRockstar

    10 days until training camp

    ESPN’s Len Paquarelli called Oakland’s Jason Campbell the steal of the offseason in the NFL. The Raiders got the quarterback from Washington on Draft weekend for a fourth-round pick. Campbell is a big upgrade over JaMarcus Russell and completed 64.5 percent of his passes last year for 3,618 yards and 20 touchdowns.

    “Not since 2002, when Rich Gannon connected on 67.6 percent of his attempts, have the Raiders employed a starting quarterback with a completion mark in excess of 60 percent. The last time an Oakland quarterback threw 20 or more touchdown passes was in 2005, when Kerry Collins recorded 25. And the Raiders have gone four straight seasons without as many aggregate passing yards as a team as Campbell rang up individually in ’09.”

    Posted By: Vittorio Tafur (SF Gate)

  • RaiderRockstar

    besides romac no one in the middle and no rickey brown isnt capable of being a decent starter.

    ***

    Travis Goethel.

  • Just Fire Baby

    After Jacksonville cuts Kirk we can always bring him back if Romac gets hurt.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Ataxia,

    Brown = MLB depth, and Goethel may get a shot there too in camp. I oculd also imagine Scott playing MLB in a pinch and letting Howard get more time at WLB.

  • RaiderRockstar

    After Jacksonville cuts Kirk we can always bring him back if Romac gets hurt.

    ***

    Fire Baby: I hate you

    hahaha. j/k

  • Ataxia

    RRS,
    Travis Goethel, were banking on 2 rookies to play one of the most important positions on defense. Has me worried but i hope for the best.

  • Pingback: Jerry McD: Camp questions: Can starting LBs defend the pass? - Oakland Raiders Forum | Message Board - Where the Raider Nation lives!

  • RaiderRockstar

    Travis Goethel, were banking on 2 rookies to play one of the most important positions on defense. Has me worried but i hope for the best.

    ***

    Ataxia: fair enough

    WLB: Trevor Scott
    MLB: K. Wimbley
    SLB: Sam Williams

  • Raider Dell

    FireBaby- Hope Denver was educational and fun.

    RRS- Keep the wife happy during her pregnancy. Life changes at this time, especially her body can be difficult.

    Tell Dakota “hello” also ROG aka “brien”

    Later fellas. This economy is buzzing so much, I got a back log of work.(hahaha)

  • RaiderRockstar

    Keep the wife happy during her pregnancy. Life changes at this time, especially her body can be difficult.

    ***

    Dell: thanks for the advice, I’ll try my best

    she keeps me “happy” too, haha

    I help her out a lot around the house after work and on weekends. plus we’re having a storage building delivered on Wednesday, so we’ll get to clean out the extra bedroom (her decorating room) and we can get started on the baby room – which she is REALLY stoked about. if we have more kids I may have to forfeit my Raiders room… yikes!

  • Just Fire Baby

    Future kids go in the garage or storage, Raider rooms stays.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Future kids go in the garage or storage, Raider rooms stays.

    ***

    JFB: my thoughts exactly, but I’m sure wifey would not be pleased … especially since she sacrificed “her” spare room for kiddo #1

    maybe we’ll have another boy and do bunk beds? haha

  • J Wiggle

    Future kids go in the garage or storage, Raider rooms stays.

    ***

    JFB: my thoughts exactly,

    ——————————————————-

    LOL!

    Talk to me in a few years.

    “MY” room now has a nice pink princess rug, a beauty salon, a play crib and stroller, dolls, and all kinda “non Raider shy” in it.

    And to top it off, it was my suggestion to make it the playroom, lol.

  • J Wiggle

    Travis Goethel, were banking on 2 rookies to play one of the most important positions on defense. Has me worried but i hope for the best.

    ——————————————————

    Sam Williams played backup MLB last year, and wasn’t that bad. Ricky Brown’s best position was MLB. NOt quite sure if it was because Morrison was so bad or what, but Brown had everyone lined up correctly and was never out of position. A bit small for the position, but not a bad option as a backup.

  • LT DAN

    Hello Nation! What a great day. Can’t wait for the Raiders to shock the world!

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    I just hope we win 7 games and break the NFL record streak!

  • RaiderRockstar

    seven?

    2010 Raiders = 10-6!

  • RaiderRockstar

    Sam Williams played backup MLB last year, and wasn’t that bad.

    ***

    really ???

    I remember him covering Jason Witten in the Dallas game and that was REALLY ugly. I can’t remember seeing him on the field in any other games for some reason. just Alston, Howard, Scott & Brown. and I know Nixon & Norris were both elevated from the practice squad late in the season, but I don’t remember them doing much either. I like Ricky Brown, but he just isn’t durable

  • http://Raiders.com RaiderTW

    “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language,” Palin Tweeted. “Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it”
    ————-
    BSJ, she’s just a dumb hick, the disappointing thing about THAT is there are a lot of dumb hicks that would vote for her.

  • RaiderRockstar

    “MY” room now has a nice pink princess rug, a beauty salon, a play crib and stroller, dolls, and all kinda “non Raider shy” in it.

    ***

    Jwigg: thats different man, girls need thier own room

    if I had a girl, she’d probably have me wrapped around her little finger too

    if we have another boy? Raider room stays!

    my wife is due between 11/28 and 12/3. deer season!

    it’ll be an interesting fall & winter. haha. wonder how much i’ll have to sacrifice ??? probably everything and thats ok

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    True TW. I can imagine rows of double-wides underneath the Washington monument.