Tough first week awaits Raiders’ rookie
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Welcome to the NFL, Rolando McClain.
The first assignment for Oakland’s rookie middle linebacker comes Sunday against last year’s rushing champion Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans.
“Every back in the NFL is great or they wouldn’t be here, but this guy, he’s extraordinary to say the least,” McClain said Monday. “We’re going to have our hands full but we’re up to the job. We’ve just got to do our best containing the guy and try to stop some of those long runs.”
Few defenses were able to do that last season when Johnson won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award and was just the sixth man in league history to run for at least 2,000 yards. Along with his 2,006 yards on the ground, Johnson set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage with 2,509 yards and ended the season with 11 straight games of 100-yards rushing.
Johnson used his breakaway speed to post the three longest runs in the NFL last season, going 91 yards for a score against Houston, 89 against Jacksonville and 85 against Arizona.
McClain said practicing against Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram at Alabama, playing each week in the SEC and going against Darren McFadden in practice with the Raiders has helped prepare him for the opener. But he acknowledges Johnson is in his own class.
“He just has a different gear,” McClain said. “You really can’t practice for a guy like that, you just have to contain him.”
The Raiders have all sorts of problems against the run in recent years, leading to the decision to draft McClain eighth overall as part of an offseason overhaul of the front-seven.