Oakland Raiders starting middle linebacker, Rolando McClain, has had a tough start to the 2011 season. Now, it looks as though he is at risk of missing a start after injuring his ankle in the Raiders 25-20 win over the Houston Texans. McClain injured his ankle during the game, but opted to play the remainder of the game. Perhaps as a result of that decision, McClain has been limited in practice this week.
As of Thursday, McClain had still yet to participate fully in practice. This means one of two things. Either McClain is starting on Sunday and his limited participation in practice is just a decision by the coaching staff to allow his body a little extra time to heal before Sunday, or, McClain's status is unsure as of yet and whether he starts on Sunday could be a game time decision.
Should McClain be unable to start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, back up linebacker Darryl Blackstock would be the starting middle linebacker for the Raiders. Technically, Blackstock is akin to the fourth string middle linebacker. McClain's back up for this season was supposed to be Travis Goethel. However, an injury back in August put Goethel out for the season. As a result, Oakland brought back former Raider Ricky Brown to back up McClain. Then, Brown got injured and was placed on the injured reserve last weekend. Cue Darryl Blackstock.
Last season, Blackstock was playing under Chuck Bresnahan in the UFL. During training camp this season, the Raiders brought blackstock in for a look. His experience with Bresnahan and his contributions in the special teams game enabled Blackstock to land a roster position on the team for the 2011 season.
Though Blackstock has played primarily on special teams, he has seen some time on the field as a linebacker this season. While it is hard to really determine his talent as a linebacker given the relatively little time he has spent playing the position for the Raiders, he has made a few plays, and more importantly, I have not seen him make any major mistakes.
Blackstock is already a feel good story for making the team after playing in the UFL last season. However, if McClain is unable to start on Sunday, it could be Blackstock's opportunity to turn his feel good story into a fairy tale ending. Blackstock knows this, and is preparing as though he will be the starter because he does not want to let such an opportunity pass him by.