During their recent three-game winning streak, several units on the Raiders have played well. However no group of been players has been more instrumental in the team's success than the linebackers.
According to WLB Kamerion Wimbley, the reason the unit has been so good is that each of the three starters has a well-defined role in the defense and the corresponding skill set. Wimbley, the team's top pass rusher, told PFW that he is a "lead by example guy." That example, which includes four sacks in Week 10 against the Chargers and a game-changing interception versus the Bears two weeks later, has rubbed off on his teammates.
Second-year MLB Rolando McClain and recently acquired SLB Aaron Curry each play important roles alongside Wimbley. McClain calls the plays for the defense and is in charge of lining everyone up correctly. Meanwhile, Curry has sparked an improvement in both pass and run defense since being acquired on Oct. 13.
"Well Rolando is the quarterback of the defense, I believe he is the heart and soul," Wimbley said of McClain. "He understands this defense inside and out and we rely on him during the games to lead us, and he's done a great job of doing that so far this season."
On Curry, Wimbley said: "One of the first things that I think of when you mention Aaron is energy. This guy brings so much energy and excitement to the game, and he knows his stuff as well, so that's also a plus. He came right in and just was no let-off or anything like that. He just hopped right into the playbook, hopped onto the field and contributed immediately."
The most important of the three might be Wimbley. With exceptional speed and instincts, he can single-handedly force an opposing team to trash its game plan. Though he occasionally lines up at defensive end in the team's nickel and dime packages, the sixth-year pro — in his second season in the Silver and Black after four years with the Browns — believes that it is the linebackers who will be the key to the Raiders' late-season push to the playoffs.
"We know, as the linebackers, our job is to get everybody in the right place, to fit the gaps whenever there's run plays. But also we have to be responsible in getting on the right man in coverage and being on top of our assignments," Wimbley said. "The main thing that we always talk about in our defense is stopping the run and no big plays. … We know later in the year you basically have to do everything you can to eliminate the things that could hurt you and eliminate penalties and mistakes. But you also want to be fast and aggressive and create turnovers."
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