Rookie of the year
The fourth-round draft pick from San Diego State was supposed to learn at the knee of the similarly hyper Aaron Curry and spell him at times. Thing was, Curry's knees did not cooperate and Burris replaced Curry in starting every game at weakside linebacker. Burris's energy and activity was noticeable, even if he sometimes had trouble shedding blocks or bringing down a quarterback or running back in the backfield. Still, Burris was third in tackles, with 138, 84 solo, and had 1 1/2 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. When Rolando McClain was benched on passing downs, Burris stayed on the field and by the time the season ended, the purported role player had been in on 867 snaps. And while there have been rumblings about Burris moving inside as a middle linebacker next year, he said he would welcome the challenge.
[GALLERY: 2012 Raiders team awards]
One ticket to Bustville
OK, so, not everything here is positive, right? Many point to Rolando McClain's off-field hijinks, and Hue Jackson's lack of discipline in the wake of his midseason arrest in Alabama in 2011, as a turning point. Consider: since then, the Raiders are just 5-16. And McClain, who was given a clean slate by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, sullied said slate, both with his putrid play and his Facebook histrionics. As if being stripped of his "green dot" was not enough, McClain lost his starting job and was slapped with a two-game suspension. And when it ended, he became the scout team fullback in non-contact practice and was made inactive as a healthy scratch for the last three games. He made $970,000 in base salary in 2012 and is due to make $4.005 million in base salary in 2013. So why didn't the Raiders simply cut him? The only thing that makes sense is if such a move would have put the Raiders over the salary cap this season. Still, it's hard to see the former No. 8 overall draft pick returning to Oakland next season.