Editor's Note: Football analyst Bryan Broaddus has been previewing each position with one key battle to watch heading into training camp. Today, he focuses on the linebacker position.
There are a couple of different ways these defensive coaches can roll with these linebackers. Justin Durant has been running with the first team and rookie Anthony Hitchens with the twos while DeVonte Holloman has been playing outside.
The front office took the opportunity to add former first rounder of the Raiders, Rolando McClain who during his career played as a Mike linebacker. What has been strange and this might just be the coaches way of taking a look at different combinations to see what they have but I have yet to see Holloman play inside like we did in the final two games of the 2013 season and with McClain now in the mix, we most likely will see him play on the outside. I believe the way that this is going to play out is that as good as Durant can look at times at the point of attack against the run, he will get exposed in coverage. [embedded_ad]
All I have heard listening to coaches talk about how important the MIKE linebacker is in this scheme while in coverage, that this responsibility will be too much for Durant to handle. As long as the play is in front of him, he has been fine but I have also seen him trying to drop, redirect and that has not gone as smoothly. Covering ground in coverage in my opinion is not one of his strengths. There were times in these practices where he was asked to play in space against Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar, and he was beaten badly but the ball didn't go his direction.
From what I was able to see from McClain in his games with the Raiders, that coverage was not a problem for him. He showed a keen awareness in zone but moved well enough to handle those assignments in man. Plus his power at the point of attack was impressive as well playing the run. The plan appears to start with McClain on the inside at Mike but also work him some as the Sam which makes sense because that is all these linebackers have taken a shot at different roles in all these roles.
Justin Durant might have the job right now but also be prepared to see Rolando McClain working with Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber and maybe even DeVonte Holloman with the first defense by the time we break camp in Oxnard in the middle of August.