Season review -- Raiders LBs

January 13, 2012, 4:12 pm
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Having been totally rebuilt in 2010, the Raiders linebackers corps promised to be a strength in 2011. It was anything but. The second line of defense, coached by Greg Biekert and assisted by Ricky Hunley, was burned early and often. So much so that Biekert is purportedly on his way out of Oakland. Was it scheme? Desire? Talent? Injuries that hurt the group's depth? In a word, yes. Expect a new look in 2012.
Grade: FLINEBACKERSAaron Curry -- Acquired on a Thursday from Seattle for a seventh-round draft pick, Curry started at weakside linebacker for the Raiders three days later, supplanting Quentin Groves while bringing more energy and activity to the position than seen in years. But while the word on him that he lacked something in coverage skills was proven, Curry did seem reborn in Oakland. And yet, there was the occasional over-the-top moment, such as the poorly-timed 15-yard penalty, like the flag he received for boxing up the goalpost after returning a fumble six yards for a touchdown against Detroit that portended the Lions' comeback. Still, Curry did not have a sack for the Raiders but his 46 tackles ranked eighth on the team, despite his not joining the team until Week 6.RELATED: Aaron Curry 2011 game logs
Rolando McClain -- Oh boy, where to start? The No. 8 pick of the 2010 draft entered camp seemingly a changed player, saying he did not like the way he played as a rookie. And yet, many of the same issues arose -- unable to shed blocks, easily re-directed, taking bad angles. No, McClain is not (yet?) the game-changing MLB the Raiders envisioned when they took him out of Alabama in the mold of Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis. But those guys play inside in 3-4 alignments, same as McClain in college. Still, it was painfully obvious when he was not on the field. And his arrest in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., for allegedly firing a gun next to a man's head, cast a pall over the organization, especially his grinning-like-a-fiend picture as he was put into a police car. The Raiders lost four of five after the arrest, even as no disciplinary actions were taken against McClain by the Raiders. And yet, though it all, McClain wracked up the stats, going for 99 tackles (he had 85 as a rookie) with five sacks (he had 12 of one in '10). And get this -- he averaged 8.4 tackles per game and had three sacks and a safety after his arrest.RELATED: Rolando McClain 2011 game logs
Kamerion Wimbley -- After leading the Raiders in sacks with nine in 2010, Wimbley was due to get a bump in pay from 685,000 to almost 4.2 million thanks to a 3.5 million "buyback option." But the deal was found in violation of the league's "30-percent rule," so the Raiders used the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing him 11.3 million. But in an effort to create cap space, his deal was re-worked to a five-year, 48-million contract, with 29 million guaranteed. So Wimbley went from 685,000 to 29 million in a few months time. Did the strongside linebacker's play reflect the jump in paychecks? You be the judge. His tackles rose from 57 to 62, but his sacks fell from nine to seven. And four of those sacks came in one game, at San Diego, when Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeil was knocked out of the game by Curry.RELATED: Kamerion Wimbley 2011 game logs
Quentin Groves -- Despite being part of Oakland's rebuilding of their linebackers in 2010, Groves never seemed to have the complete faith of the coaching staff. It came to fruition after five games, when he was replaced by Curry. Still, Groves did not sulk. Rather, he became a high-energy standout on special teams and finished the season with 24 tackles. A looming free agent, even he admitted the day after the season finale that he had probably played his final game with the Raiders.RELATED: Quentin Groves 2011 game logs
Darryl Blackstock -- The UFL refugee had a history with defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, made the team coming out of camp and became the backup middle linebacker after Ricky Brown was lost for the season following Week 3. Blackstock appeared in all 16 games and had 20 tackles. But he struggled mightily in his one start, in place of the injured McClain, against Denver and Tim Tebow.RELATED: Darryl Blackstock 2011 game logs
Ricky Brown -- Signed late in camp after being released by New England, Brown was familiar with the Raiders having been in Oakland the previous five seasons. But the backup MLB suffered a concussion in Week 3 and was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve a week later.Travis Goethel -- The oft-injured sixth-round pick of the 2010 draft was being groomed to replace Groves on the weakside but blew out a knee early in camp and was placed on IR on Aug. 30. He was working out at the end of the season with trainers. Might he join McClain on the inside of a new 3-4 defensive alignment in Oakland next season should the Raiders decide to implement a new base defense?