The Dallas Cowboys added another Line backer for training camp. 2010 first round (8th overall selection) Rolando McClain is now a Cowboy.
The Cowboys are still trying to find a solution for the problem at middle linebacker. The linebacker group was hit with a strong blow when Sean Lee went down in OTAs with a torn ACL. The Cowboys have mainly been using players on their roster like Justin Durant and fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens trying to fill the void.
It has been speculated that they would seek to get someone in Free Agency, but the Cowboys instead traded a conditional sixth round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Rolando McClain and a seventh round pick on Tuesday. McClain retired after the 2012 season and hasn’t played in a game since.
The Former SEC Player of the Year was never the player he was at Alabama in the NFL. He struggled in pass coverage and did not make enough plays in the running game to be a dominant player that many expected him to be. While playing for the Oakland Raiders, he saw his playing time diminish. As the result, in 2012, he was kicked out of a practice after an argument with his coach.
During all of this, McClain was also dealing with problems off the field. McClain was arrested several times on different crimes from his window tint being too dark to gun charges. So the perceived poor decisions followed him. His talent, however, is something that you can not deny.
McClain has all the physical tools at 6 foot 3 inches tall at 259 pounds with a 4.6 forty yard dash time. He looks the part and during his tenure in the NFL, he did show some flashes in his limited production. In the three years in Oakland, he averaged 81 tackles a season. (Only six tackles a game) This just wasn’t enough. He only had five games were he had 10 or more tackles and only registered 6.5 sacks and one interception.
The questions that need to be addressed are rather he is committed physically and mentally to play Football and can he be a player for the Dallas Cowboys and Marinelli in this Tampa 2? The Tampa 2 requires its middle linebacker to play in zone and in man coverage. Most of the time he will be responsible for anything under the middle or the Tight end in man to man coverage. Your middle linebacker is expected to cover and hold his own there. Can McClain handle these responsibilities? Has the defensive staff and scouts seen enough film on him to believe that he can or that Marinelli can work with him enough to get the job done?
Just what are the Cowboys thinking in bringing in a player like McClain with all this baggage? He can’t be a “right kind of guy” for this team can he? It is a gamble, but one Dallas is optimistic about. The Cowboys have a linebacker on the team with some middle linebacker experience. He is only going to be 25. Training camp is just a little over three weeks away. The Cowboys want to make sure that not only they have the right players in position but they have extra bodies for the grueling days of practicing. And it is also little risk. If he plays well and makes the team, you only lose a sixth rounder. If he doesn’t, you only swap picks in the seventh. The risk reward factor is heavily in Cowboys favor. So even if he doesn’t pan out or reretires for the third time, the Cowboys don’t lose much for kicking the tire on a talent like McClain.
Reports show that he couldn’t finish, let alone pass the condition testing with the Ravens and allegedly didn’t want to perform linebacker drills. We will have to see how bad Rolando wants it. Is his hunger deep enough that he will do whatever this staff ask him to do? How quickly can he learn the playbook and what impact will he have on this team, because with Jason Garrett on the hot seat, if he can help the Cowboys win then he is certainly a “right kind of guy” in the eyes of his coaches and cowboys fans who long to return to the promised land.
This also lets you know what they think of the talent that is out there in Free Agency. While this is not the end all be all for transactions, the Cowboys went the route they did instead of going with a player like Jonathan Vilma, Stewart Bradley or Pat Angerer. The Cowboys could also add a player after the first, second or final round of cuts before season starts.
Is McClain the answer to the puzzle at middle linebacker or this Defense? Who knows. But the Cowboys will roll the dice and hope for the best.