A healthy McClain key to defense

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A healthy McClain key to defense

Criticism comes at Rolando McClain in waves, like some mammoth pulling guard or a shifty running back.He has trouble shedding blocks. He takes bad angles. He's not a game-changer at middle linebacker.Some is justified. Some, not so much.But this much is true -- the Raiders defense definitely feels it when McClain is not on the field. There was a drop-off last season in Jacksonville, when a foot injury kept him sidelined. Same as two weeks ago against Denver, when he could have spied his old SEC rival in Tim Tebow.
"I can't put the loss to the Broncos on Darryl Blackstock," Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan aid of McClain's backup, "but to me, you have a starting Mike linebacker, you miss that starting Mike linebacker, you say 'Next man up.' And Darryl did that. But again, to not have Ro out there was huge."My point to Ro is that he has continually gotten better as the year has gone on. When he came into this week, he challenged the team in the locker room, he challenged the defense in the meeting room during the week and he stepped and became the leader of the defense. And that's the type of stuff he has to do, is provide that leadership when he's on the field so it's been huge to get him back."Despite missing one game and being hobbled with a sprained right ankle since the Houston game on Oct. 9, McClain ranks second on the team with 48 tackles, 33 solo, and has a sack (strong safety leads with 69 tackles).Still, he is without the signature blowup play so associated with dominant middle linebackers. But after a stand-out game in San Diego last Thursday, the defense seems to have settled again. With McClain in the middle of it all."We never worry about what everybody says," McClain said the day after the Chargers game. "We have a good sense of each other in this locker room and that's all that matters. We believe in each other. We know we just have to take it a game at a time. If you get caught up in so much like, 'You have to lead the AFC West, you got to do this, you got to do that,' we just try to get back to the basics of one game at a time."Being 1-0 after every game and at the end of the year the record will speak for itself."Against the Chargers, McClain started slow and seemed hindered by the ankle. Then he, and the rest of the defense, solidified and clicked."We pride ourselves on being real physical," McClain said."When we stepped on the field, we already had that mindset. Last year we went down there with the same mindset and took over the game. We went in with that exact same mindset this year and we got the win."Now that McClain is as healthy as he's been since Napa, Bresnahan sees big things from him going forward."If you remember back at the beginning of training camp, we're going through the beginning of preseason, he was doing some things really well and then all of a sudden he got nicked up here and there and that's really been the thing that's set him back a little bit," Bresnahan said. "When he's healthy and he's ready to go, he's a true factor in the middle. We've got to get him doing that every week."He really stepped up as the leader in the room and took it upon himself that, Hey, he's back, he's gotta take control, the reins, and really steer the defense in the direction we want it to go."

Report: Former Raiders RB arrested for domestic violence

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AP

Report: Former Raiders RB arrested for domestic violence

Trent Richardson is reportedly in some trouble.

Richardson was arrested on Thursday night for domestic violence, according to TMZ Sports.

The former running back was taken into custody on a third degree charge, the report states, with bail being set for $1,000.

The arrest was made in Hoover, Alabama.

The Browns selected Richardson with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.

He was traded to the Colts in 2013 and played for Indianapolis in 2014.

He signed with the Raiders in 2015 and appeared in three exhibition games, but did not make the team.

The 26-year old was cut by the Ravens last August.

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Derek Carr and Todd Downing are tight. A strong friendship was forged between the Raiders’ franchise quarterback and his position coach these past two seasons, one that should help the Raiders now that Downing will call plays.

The Raiders new offensive coordinator will use his young signal caller as a resource formulating a game plan. Carr has a bright offensive mind – he called his own plays in high school and in college at times – and Downing plans to use it to put his quarterback in positions to succeed.

Carr’s influence in preparation will expand over previous seasons under coordinator Bill Musgrave.

“Where I see him needing a little bit more command is just being able to share his thoughts of game plans,” Downing said Wednesday in a conference call. “Being a student of the game, as he already is, but vocalize what he likes and doesn’t like. I think my relationship with him is something that’s going to give him the opportunity to voice his opinions. I look forward to him really taking charge of expressing his thoughts on the offense.”

Carr has always had freedom to adjust at the line of scrimmage, but that could increase with Downing in charge. Derek Carr’s brother Davis Carr told 95.7 The Game as much a few weeks ago, a topic Downing addressed on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot made about his command at the line of scrimmage,” Downing said. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for Derek to do that. That’s not something I feel we’ll even have to get into until we’re much further into this offseason and into training camp.”

Downing had opportunities to interview with other teams this offseason, but head coach Jack Del Rio wanted to pair Downing and Carr together. The young duo have similar personalities and a strong working relationship based on a love of the game.

“My relationship with Derek starts there,” Downing said in Wednesday interview on 95.7-FM. “We both love coming to work each day and respect the heck out of each other. When you have that kind of relationship with any coach, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Derek’s the leader of our franchise. In my opinion, he’s the best young quarterback in football. We’re fortunate to have him. Why wouldn’t I be in a good mood every time I am around him?”

Carr made great progress working with Downing the past two years, and was an MVP candidate in 2016. Downing sees continued room for growth and refinement as next season approaches.

“I think Derek made big strides in 2016, just in terms of his command of the offense, being the field general, being able to get through progressions more efficiently,” Downing said. “His footwork took big strides. I certainly want him to remain focused on all of those attributes. You don’t want to feel like you’ve arrived in a certain area of your game and then have it go backwards when the next season starts. Certainly, I want him focused on all of those.”