Coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver say middle linebacker Rolando McClain had his most productive game Sunday, at least in terms of on a production-per-snap basis. McClain agreed with that assessment.
“It was 17 plays, and I had, I don’t know, a ratio of every one and a half plays I made some type of impact type play,” McClain said. “That’s pretty danged good.”
McClain’s snaps dropped from 73 of 77 against the Broncos to 17 of 55 against the Falcons, as Tarver opted to go with rookie Miles Burris in the nickel package, where one of the three linebackers comes off the field in favor of an extra defensive back.
Tarver said McClain handled the reduction in playing time and responsibility well and that McClain performed well in practice so far this week.
McClain said he is focusing his energy on being a team player, though he knows what the job change signfies.
“It makes my job easy, just focus on base whenever that is and go from there,” McClain said. “You understand the situation, you understand the transition whatever that may be. You’re not naive to the fact of what’s going on.
“But, at the same time, you’re still a team player. If coach thinks that’s the best thing for the defense, then, by all means, do it. I can focus on the base downs and that’s what I put my energy toward.”
Tarver said he has been impressed by McClain’s demeanor.
“He handled it well,” Tarver said. “He’s been good with the other guys. That’s what we asked him to do, and that’s what he did. He was a pro about the situation.”
McClain’s base salary jumps from $970,000 this season to slightly more than $4 million in 2013. It’s doubtful that the Raiders will honor that contract if McClain still is viewed as a situational player.
Just the same, that doesn’t mean the Raiders are moving on from McClain, either. They just decided that the defense is better with Burris on the field with Philip Wheeler in the nickel package.
With that said, McClain can plan on getting plenty of action Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, considering the Jaguars rely upon running back Maurice Jones-Drew quite a bit.
McClain is sold that the Jaguars will do little more than run the ball, as the Jaguars did the last time the teams played.
“Two years ago, we went down there to Jacksonville and that’s all they did was run the ball,” McClain said. “They had 200-plus yards. That was the game. They had the ball a lot. We had to stop the run and we didn’t. They scored. They ran the ball to keep us off the field.
“Darren (McFadden) had a great game, I remember. Other than that, all I remember is them running the ball. I didn’t play with a foot injury. That’s all I remember is them running the ball. You have to take that personally. We have to go out and try to at least stop that run. If you don’t do anything else, stop the run, let them know you can’t do this two times in a row.”
— Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) is making progress, but he won’t play Sunday, Allen said. The goal is to get Spencer back on the practice field soon, perhaps next week.
Therefore, Michael Huff is slated to start at Spencer’s left cornerback spot for the fourth straight game Sunday.
— Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp raved about the way quarterback Carson Palmer accepted blame for the Raiders loss to the Falcons.
They say that is yet another glaring example of the kind of leader Palmer is, how he is slow to accept credit and eager to handle the blame.
“That’s the type of quarterback you want; a guy that’s going to step up and take responsibility and not look to pass the buck on anybody else,” Allen said. “Carson has played extremely well for us. He’s a stand-up guy, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”
— Here’s Tarver’s explanation for the defensive philosophy for the Falcons’ game-deciding drive in which the Falcons marched into field-goal position despite having only 40 seconds left.
“It’s all about execution of a coverage,” Tarver said. “In those situations, if you blitz everybody and they make a play, why’d you blitz? If you drop everybody but one, and they make a play, why’d you do that? All of the sudden if you blitz it’s the greatest call of all time.
“I find those funny. It’s always execution. It’s always execution of what you’re talking about and whether you get it done. On the calls where you may rush a few less, then you need to be closer and understand where they’re trying to go. That’s where we can do a better job as players and coaches.”
Tarver has a point. The Raiders executed well on the first few plays, forcing the Falcons to burn one of their time-outs, while not giving up huge yardage on short completions.
In the end, the Falcons still were forced to attempt a 55-yard field goal.