Burris' role keeps growing

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 - 8:11 am

ALAMEDA – Raiders coach Dennis Allen talked about making a few "tweaks" during the bye week. One of those changes manifested itself in rookie linebacker Miles Burris supplanting Rolando McClain in the nickel defense.

In the first four games, Burris, a Granite Bay High School product who played at San Diego State, was the linebacker coming off the field whenever the Raiders went with an extra defensive back in their so-called nickel package. McClain became that guy Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

McClain's snaps dropped from 73 against the Broncos on Sept. 30 to 17 against the Falcons on Sunday.

By comparison, Burris played 27 of the 77 snaps against the Broncos and all 55 against the Falcons.

Allen said he doesn't foresee getting away from this alignment, given how well Burris played against the Falcons.

"Every week, we're going to evaluate and see where we're at, but he did enough to earn the right to be back out there in nickel situations," Allen said.

McClain, a first-round draft pick in 2010, has started 34 of 37 games and arrived as the projected linchpin of the Raiders' defense.

In Burris, Allen sees a young player who gets better each game.

"He's not a repeat mistake offender," Allen said. "He makes the corrections, understands football and concepts and makes adjustments."

In the postgame locker room, McClain was relatively pleased with how the defense performed.

"We played pretty good this week," McClain said. "We were locked in, had a very good week of practice, coming off the bye week. But they're a good team, and they made the plays they needed at the times they needed them."

Huff defends strategy – Raiders cornerback Michael Huff had no problem with the strategy of using three pass rushers and playing coverage on the final Atlanta drive that resulted in Matt Bryant's 55-yard game-winning field goal.

"We, as players, have to be smarter because we could have played certain things a little differently," Huff said. "The calls were fine. He still had to kick a 55-yard field goal. It wasn't a chip shot."

McFadden breakout predicted – Allen believes it's only a matter of time before running back Darren McFadden breaks out with some big numbers, with Allen noting that McFadden lost 21 rushing yards to a holding penalty.

McFadden had 70 yards on 21 carries and has 271 yards and a 3.2 average through five games. He had 519 yards on 91 attempts – a 5.7 average – through the first five games last season.

Curry to return – Weak-side linebacker Aaron Curry is slated to practice Wednesday for the first time since he was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp with sore knees.

The Raiders have a 21-day window to look at Curry and decide how to proceed. They can activate Curry at any time during that period.

When that window ends, Curry must be activated, released or placed on injured reserve.

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