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Training camp day 12: Rolando McClain ahead of the curve

LB Rolando McClain makes a catch in practice

The Oakland Raiders completed their 12th day of training camp in the Napa Valley by having their first preparations for an opponent for the 2010 season. Along the way, it has become increasingly evident that Rolando McClain is ready to take the reins of the middle linebacker position as a rookie. He is regularly seen making doing what needs to be done in any of the competitive drills against both the run and the pass. One key position battle that is yet to be decided is the 3rd running back position where Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett are in win or go home mode. Barring injury, only one of them will be kept.

Jacoby Ford, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, Paul Hubbard, Luke Lawton, Darren McFadden, Jay Richardson, Chaz Schilens all did not practice in Monday’s single session.

Nnamdi Asomugha and John Henderson did not finish practice due to what Coach Tom Cable termed “a little bit of leg soreness.”

In his post practice press conference Cable was effusive in his praise of the rookie middle linebacker. “He came to camp with great retention. He was able to line up since day one make calls and adjust.”

McClain has been working with defensive assistant Greg Beikert who manned the middle linebacker position in Silver and Black for a number of years. During his time in Oakland, Beikert was known as a student of the game. That has been an excellent match with the young ‘backer, as he is making the adjustment into the pro game.

What can’t be questioned is McClain’s physical presence. He has had a tendency to just take over whichever drill he has been in. He has hit the hole on the running drills. He does not back away from getting physical when the situation calls for it.

What wasn’t known when McClain first came to practice was his ability to cover and play the pass. After some struggles early in minicamp and OTAs against the pass, he has shown the ability to get that done, as well. He has shown a flair for finding the ball in flight and being able to get a hand on it to knock it down or haul it in for an interception.Cable said, “He is ahead of the process.”

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Running their livelihood

The conventional wisdom is that the preseason games are useless, especially in the second half. In fact, the commissioner is using that line to press for an “enhanced” season that removes two preseason games. However, what is going on near the end of preseason games is high drama for the people involved. A perfect example of that situation is the Raiders third running back position. No, that is not a flashy job, but that battle is crucial to the competitors Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett. The one who doesn’t get that job will become an unemployed aging veteran running back. Hardly a position of high demand, so their careers hang in the balance.

Cable assessed the situation with the two of them after practice, “They are going neck and neck. They both have a different style. Rock is a bit more physical and Michael may be a little quicker. “

Look for both Cartwright and Bennett to get a significant number of carries against Dallas, especially with McFadden having missed some time due to injury. They will also likely be running behind new fullback and former defensive end Alex Daniels.

The Daniels experiment is an echo of the experiment with Chris O’Neil during the offseason of 2009. O’Neil was an undrafted free agent tight end out of Boise State that the team had picked up. There was no room at tight end, so they tried him out at linebacker. Despite the position change, he did not even end up on the practice squad. Just because Daniels has shown a willingness to move to a new position, and a high work ethic does not guarantee him anything once the axe starts swinging. He’ll have to pave some holes against a tough Dallas defense to make an impression.

One more day with two sessions, then a travel day and it is time for some Raider football.

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