Dallas Cowboys: Rolando McClain

Cowboys trust McClain to fulfill potential

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Rolando McClain really doesn't like to talk much.

McClain is intelligent and can be insightful when interviewed, but he'd rather not talk to reporters, and does so only to avoid being fined by the NFL. The twice-retired 25-year-old linebacker isn't a rah-rah guy on his field, where he "leads with his pads," as Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey put it.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesRolando McClain, a first-round pick by the Raiders in 2010, is leading the Cowboys in total tackles through two games this season.
McClain definitely isn't the kind of guy who is going to make meaningless small talk. That's what made the brief conversation McClain initiated on the practice field one day so memorable to defensive captain Barry Church.

"He came up to me and was like, 'I love y'all. Y'all make this game fun for me again,'" Church recalled after McClain starred in Dallas' 26-10 win Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. "Once he said that, I knew he was back to his old ways, like how he was back at Alabama. Just a love for the game and love for winning. We need that type of guy around us. We just need him on our defense and I'm glad he's here."

Man, do the Cowboys ever need that kind of player, that type of talent on their defense. The no-risk deal to acquire McClain's rights from the Baltimore Ravens -- and recruit him out of retirement -- was rooted in desperation after a defense that ranked last in the league last season lost playmaking middle linebacker Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury in May.

McClain was a miserable failure for the Oakland Raiders, who made him the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft but released him less than three years and countless headaches later. He never stepped on the field in Baltimore, and many figured he was a lost cause if fellow Bama man Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' general manager, couldn't get McClain on the right track.

"I was on a bad path," said McClain, who has been arrested three times since entering the NFL and is appealing an 18-day jail sentence stemming from a 2013 incident in his Alabama hometown. "I didn't deserve to play football, so to say. I wasn't all the way there in the game. You ain't going to be the best if you ain't focused on the job, so I needed to take time to do what was important, get myself right, and I got that right.

"Now I'm in a great organization, got some great teammates, and just happy to play football again."

It finally looks as if McClain has a legitimate chance of fulfilling the potential that prompted Alabama coach Nick Saban to tell NFL people that the 6-foot-4, 260-pound physical specimen with a nasty streak, natural instincts and an excellent X's and O's mind was one of the best players he'd ever coached.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett remembered Saban, Garrett's boss when he broke into coaching in Miami, raving about McClain during Garrett's trip to an Alabama pro day. He called Saban when the Cowboys first considered McClain as an option and was told it was worth taking a shot on a gifted player with a troubled past who was truly trying to get his life together.

McClain, the father of two young boys, refocused his life around faith and family. He weeded out the negative influences, giving him a chance to take advantage of his football gifts, which he's done to the tune of a team-high 22 tackles (per the coaches' film), a sack and a spectacular interception in two games for a defense that is exceeding basement-low expectations.

There have been bumps in the road for McClain during his brief time with the Cowboys. Training camp was especially tough for him after a 20-month layoff. He missed a handful of practices due to his Alabama court date and minor, conditioning-related health issues.

But McClain, who quit on two NFL teams, convinced the Cowboys that they could count on him.

"[We] tried to give him an opportunity to come in and show us he can be a football player," Garrett said. "Create the right kind of environment for him to do that, and really emphasize taking day by day, play by play. Just focus on this task right here, and I think over time, he's demonstrated he can be a trustworthy player for us."

With his actions speaking a lot louder than words, McClain has definitely demonstrated his talent.

Three thoughts on Cowboys' win

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
1:00
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Three thoughts on the Cowboys' 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

1. Tony Romo can give me a million different explanations about why some of his passes wobble or lack zip, and I’m probably not going to believe him. He just doesn’t look right. I’ve seen 109 of the 110 NFL starts he has made in person, and I’ve never questioned whether he had a strong arm. Now, I do. Maybe, he’ll get stronger as the season goes on. Perhaps, he’ll adjust the way he plays to protect his back and to limit his deep balls. He can still help the Cowboys win games, but I don’t think he can do it as the focal point of the offense.

McClain
2. Rolando McClain showed me something by playing all but one snap of Sunday’s win over Tennessee, especially when the Titans spent a lot of the game using formations with three receivers. That means McClain spent a lot of time in the nickel, and he seemed to operate just fine. Each of the first two weeks, he has put a hit on an opposing player that we haven’t seen around here lately. He’s tackling with bad intentions. The Cowboys haven’t really had a player do that since Roy Williams.

3. Sterling Moore is the kind of NFL player who’s not quite big enough, fast enough or quick enough to excite the coaching staff. But every time they have to use him, he does a pretty solid job. Jason Garrett wants us to believe it doesn’t matter where you came from or where you were drafted. Well, when Orlando Scandrick returns this week, it’ll be interesting to see how much they use Scandrick on the outside and Moore in the slot, while Claiborne heads to the bench when the Cowboys are in their nickel defense.

Key stat: 12-1

The Cowboys improved to 12-1 when DeMarco Murray gets 20 carries or more in a game. Murray gained 167 yards on a career-high 29 carries against Tennessee on Sunday. It’s no surprise the Cowboys have a winning record when he gets the ball that much because it means the Cowboys are controlling the line of scrimmage and the game. All of that means they can keep handing the ball to Murray. But if all it took was 20 carries to Murray to win the game, then they’d just give it to him the first 20 plays of each game. Zack Martin has given the Cowboys three quality offensive linemen -- Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are the others -- and two solid players in Doug Free and Ron Leary. The Cowboys feel comfortable running off left or right tackle as well pulling each each guard as well as running wide to each side. That makes their running attack versatile and dangerous and it should result in more games with 20 carries for Murray.

Player to Watch: Joseph Randle

A lot of folks were disappointed when Joseph Randle made the Cowboys’ final roster and Ryan Williams didn’t. You should understand the decision now. Williams is every bit as good as Randle as a runner -- some would argue he’s better -- but there’s no comparison between them as a pass protector or special teams contributor. Randle has been a good special teams player the first two weeks -- not just a guy along for the ride -- and he’s been a much more explosive runner than we was as a rookie. He looks like a player who understands his role, has accepted it and is trying to persuade the coaching staff to give him a bigger role.

Cowboys defensive playing time

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
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Here's a look at the snap counts for each of the Cowboys' defensive players on Sunday:

Rolando McClain erased any doubts that he’s just a two-down linebacker with his performance Sunday against Tennessee. With Justin Durant (groin) out for a few weeks, McClain was on the field for 48 of 49 plays. It’s impressive because the Titans used a lot of formations with three receivers, which is why Sterling Moore played 44 snaps. Defensive lineman Jack Crawford saw his first action with the Cowboys, playing 12 plays. Kyle Wilber has lost his starting strongside linebacker job to Bruce Carter, but he’s getting playing time as a pass-rushing defensive end. He played 12 plays against the Titans.

Bruce Carter: 49
Brandon Carr: 48
Rolando McClain: 48
Barry Church: 45
Morris Claiborne: 45
Sterling Moore: 44
Jeremy Mincey: 43
J.J. Wilcox: 41
Tyrone Crawford: 30
Henry Melton: 26
Nick Hayden: 25
George Selvie: 22
Davon Coleman 19 Terrell McClain 18 Jack Crawford 12 Kyle Wilber: 11
Jeff Heath: 10
Anthony Hitchens: 9

Upon Further Review: Defense shines

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
1:30
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The Dallas Cowboys moved to 1-1 with a commanding 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.

After every game we take a look back in Upon Further Review.

1. After training camp there were plenty of concerns about the defense from its pass rush to secondary play. Losing Sean Lee at middle linebacker was also a major blow to a defense that ranked last in 2013. Two weeks into the season, the defense is doing just fine. In the victory over the Titans, safety Barry Church had a pick, linebacker Rolando McClain also had one, Morris Claiborne almost picked one off and corners, Sterling Moore and Brandon Carr had strong performances. Moore knocked down several passes and Carr did a solid job in one-on-one coverage. The pass rush also got to Jake Locker numerous times and the Cowboys defense was on point. The unit was more physical this week and the increased snaps for defensive tackle Henry Melton helped. There was even a Kyle Wilber sighting as he obtained half a sack on a bull rush move.

2. Melton didn’t start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but in Week 2 he became a starter and showed the Cowboys’ coaches why he was worth signing in free agency. Melton’s tipped pass led to a McClain interception and he picked up a half-sack when he flushed Locker out of the pocket. Melton, using the three-technique along the defensive line, was able to push the pocket and he didn’t face a lot of double-teams. That might change this week when the Cowboys take on the St. Louis Rams.

3. DeMarco Murray was fantastic on Sunday. He rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown. Murray broke 11 tackles and despite a fumble for the second consecutive week, was able to brush it aside and run with a fury downfield. Murray has adopted the one-cut technique from position coach Gary Brown. In years past, Brown noticed the Cowboys’ running backs were doing too much dancing when they got to the hole, so Brown told the backs to get what they can. If the hole dictated one or two yards, so be it. Murray isn’t afraid to get just one or two yards, however, the offensive line is getting a good push into the second level of the defense, allowing him to make that one-cut and get up field.

4. Last week, left tackle Tyron Smith played a solid game though he allowed one sack and was penalized twice. Right tackle Doug Free gave up two sacks in the first half and looked over matched. As the game progressed, the veteran took over and handled outside linebacker Derrick Morgan and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua one-on-one with little trouble. There were times he had tight end Jason Witten lined up with him, but Free was able to produce a strong effort overall.

5. One of the biggest plays of the game came from Witten. With Dallas leading 16-10 late in the third quarter, Tony Romo floated a pass into the flat over a leaping defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. The pass was too high for Witten to haul in and safety Bernard Pollard caught the ball. Witten had the presence of mind to strip Pollard and force an incompletion. If Pollard maintains control of the ball he probably gets a pick-six and the Titans take the lead.

5 plays that shaped Cowboys' 26-10 win

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
12:50
PM ET
There were 125 plays in the Dallas Cowboys' 26-10 win against the Tennessee Titans, but not all of them are created equal. We all pay attention to the touchdowns and turnovers, but there are often other plays that play an important role in shaping the game, too.

Here's a look at five plays that shaped the Cowboys' win:

Play: Tony Romo incompletion
Situation: Second-and-4 from Tennessee 33
Score: Dallas leads, 16-10
Time: 4:51 left in third quarter
Taylor's Take: There's a good chance we'd be talking about the 0-2 Cowboys if Jason Witten doesn't make the play of the game. Tennessee had scored on its first two second-half possessions to pull within 16-10. On this play, Witten initially blocked before releasing into the right flat. Romo threw the ball high and it bounced off Witten's fingertips into the arms of Bernard Pollard, who would've returned it for a touchdown. Witten instinctively grabbed Pollard around the waist and knocked the ball out. Six plays later, Dez Bryant caught a touchdown pass for a 23-10 lead.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiDespite a fumble by DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys held on for a Week 2 win at Tennessee.
Play: Jake Locker incompletion
Situation: Third-and-6 from Tennessee 50
Score: Tied, 0-0
Time: 7:27 left in first quarter
Taylor's Take: DeMarco Murray's second fumble of the season had given Tennessee great field position and an opportunity to take an early lead. Nate Washington ran a crossing route and settled in a soft spot on the Cowboys' zone, but safety J.J. Wilcox broke nicely on Locker's pass, deflecting it, and middle linebacker Rolando McClain slung him to the ground to force the incompletion and keep the score tied.

Play: Chris Jones punt
Situation: Fourth-and-six from Dallas 42
Score: Dallas leads, 10-0
Time: 6:51 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: Dwayne Harris shows folks every week why he's among this team's most important players. Jones' punt bounced at 15 and was headed into the end zone, but Harris avoided Dexter McCluster's block at the 5, grabbed the ball at the 1 and tossed it backward just before he landed in the end zone. James Hanna downed the ball at the 2. The field position switch ultimately led to a field goal and a 13-0 Dallas lead.

Play: Cole Beasley reception
Situation: Third-and-7 from Dallas 35
Score: Dallas leads, 23-10
Time: 13:03 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: The Cowboys needed a good drive to burn some clock and reduce Tennessee's chances of a comeback. So Romo picked a good time to deliver one of his best passes. Beasley, operating from the slot, ran a quick out and Romo delivered a perfect pass that Beasley caught in stride for a first down. The 11-play, 38-yard drive ended with a field goal.

Play: Kyle Wilber sack
Situation: Second-and-10 from Tennessee 13
Score: Dallas leads, 13-0
Time: :53 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: The Titans were aggressive at the end of the first half, but Wilber wrecked the plan with a strong power rush. It was the first sack by a defensive lineman -- Wilber was rushing as a defensive end not a linebacker. It put the Titans in a third-and-long situation that helped force a punt and set up another Dallas field goal before the end of the half.

Three thoughts on the Cowboys

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
12:15
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IRVING -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys, who open the season Sunday against San Francisco.

1) Tony Romo played one half and 14 plays in the preseason.

Yes, he took a pretty good beating against Miami, but that was only a half.

Romo
He will get the full game against San Francisco’s defense, which remains a physical group even though it’s missing several starters because of injury or suspension. He will get hit and hit hard on a regular basis.

This is the truest test for Romo’s back that we will see. If he survives and has no issues getting ready for Tennessee next week, then you should be able to take a deep breath and relax, because it means Romo is really ready to go.

2) We will get a good feel this week for the Cowboys' alleged commitment to the run.

San Francisco did not allow a 100-yard rusher last season and finished fourth in the NFL in run defense (95.9 yards per game).

"The one thing you notice about San Francisco’s defense is that everyone does his job," Dallas center Travis Frederick said. "There’s no hero ball. If they’re supposed to be in a gap, they’re in it.

"This is a week where it’s going to be ugly. They don’t give up big plays in the running game. A four-yard run is a good play this week."

When the running game isn’t dominant, the Cowboys have a tendency to give up regardless of the score. We will see if play-caller Scott Linehan takes a new approach.

3) Middle linebacker Rolando McClain will get a strong test this week.

San Francisco is a physical running team without a lot of frills. Running back Frank Gore won’t be hard to find. He will be between the tackles, which is where McClain does his best work.

The Cowboys need McClain to be a dominant presence against San Francisco’s running game or the 49ers’ offense will score 35 points.

Key number: 48

Since Jason Garrett took over the Cowboys’ offense, they have usually been among the leaders in completions of 20 yards or more.

Last season, the Cowboys had 48 completions of 20 yards or more, tied for only 17th in the NFL. In 2012, they were 9th with 55.

You could certainly argue that last season's play-caller Bill Callahan, brought up in the West Coast offense, and his dink-and-dunk approach contributed to the lack of big plays in the passing game

Linehan likes going deep. He will challenge San Francisco’s secondary.

Player to Watch: Morris Claiborne

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft is only starting at cornerback because Orlando Scandrick has been suspended for the first four games after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Claiborne missed the entire preseason with knee and shoulder injuries, so he will make his debut in the opener.

Claiborne doesn’t have to be great, but the Cowboys need him to be a solid player against a really good group of receivers. Otherwise, the defense is really going to struggle.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.

1) Brandon Weeden didn’t do much over the last three preseason games to inspire much confidence, if the Cowboys need him to play.

Weeden
Jason Garrett said he did the usual array of good things and bad things in the game, but the troubling thing during the preseason is that he seems to have a habit of staring down his receivers. Other times, he’s not decisive and he either throws the ball late or scrambles because the receiver is no longer open.

He finished the preseason 34-of-57 for 388 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns.

The reality is that if the Cowboys need him to play this season, he’ll be behind the starting offensive line and he’ll have enough weapons that all he has to do is manage the game.

2) No team wants to go winless in preseason. Jerry Jones did his best to put a positive spin on it by referencing his first preseason as the Cowboys’ owner.

The Cowboys went 3-1 in the preseason and 1-15 during the 1989 season.

“Well, it has always concerned me,” Jones said. “On the other hand, the first year I came in the NFL, we were undefeated going into the Denver game. Dan Reeves was their coach. He was a disciple of Tom Landry and he was hot over the fact that Coach Landry and those things had been done here with the Cowboys.

“He left [John] Elway in all the way through the game and we played into overtime to beat the Cowboys so we didn’t go undefeated.

“We went 4-1. Thought this is going to work. We won one football game that year. So much for preseason.”

3) Dustin Vaughan isn’t going to make the final roster.

This team has too many issues on defense and players such as Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence need roster spots even though they aren’t playing for several weeks. Vaughan is a great fit for the practice squad, and if the 6-foot-5, 235-pound undrafted free agent gets claimed by another team then that’s just a tough break.

Other teams have issues with their rosters and most teams don’t keep a third quarterback.

Key number: -56

It’s just the preseason and coach Jason Garrett stayed committed to evaluating personnel.

Still, it must be discouraging to get outscored by 56 points, the largest point differential in the league, as the Cowboys went winless in the preseason.

The Cowboys have gone winless in the preseason five times. Only the 1998 team that still had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders made the playoffs.

Player to Watch: Rolando McClain

McClain
Rolando McClain is the most intriguing defensive player on the roster. He has every physical skill you want in a linebacker, but none of us really knows how much he wants to play.

He says the right things on the rare occasion he speaks publicly, but he’s missed several practices as he gets his body used to playing football again. After all, this is a player who’s retired twice in the past year, so you’re always waiting to see if he’ll retire a third time.

The Cowboys are trying their best not to depend on him, which is good. But they need help at linebacker, so it’s only a matter of time before they get seduced by his talent and put him in the starting lineup.

“I don’t think Rolando is going to be the savior of this team,” Jerry Jones said. “We don’t have Sean Lee, but Rolando does have the skill level to come in here and really add to what we can do.

“We’re going to need him, but I don’t want anybody to think I expect him to be Dick Butkus or even Sean Lee.”
MIAMI -- It's pretty clear the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from weakside linebacker Bruce Carter.

Carter
Carter
The Cowboys were disappointed when Pittsburgh took linebacker Ryan Shazier one pick ahead of them in May's draft, and they want Rolando McClain to earn the starting middle linebacker job because it would allow the coaching staff to move Justin Durant to Carter's position.

But Carter gave the coaching staff a glimpse Saturday of why they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 draft with a nice diving deflection of a pass in the first quarter and an apparent blocked punt that was nullified by a penalty.

"Actually Bruce had some good things happen for him tonight and I particularly like him on that pass coverage," owner Jerry Jones said. "He shows what he can be for you on plays out there. But I thought Bruce really in practice or in a game, probably has looked the best he’s looked."

Carter has the size, speed and athleticism the Cowboys want in a weakside linebacker. Athletically, he fits this scheme perfectly because it allows him to run freely to the ball sine he's always protected from offensive lineman by a defensive tackle. Carter's problem is he still thinks too much on the field, which negates his athleticism.

Whether Carter starts or not, he's going to have a significant role in the Cowboys' nickel defense because of his pass-covering ability. He's entering the last year of his contract and the Cowboys, for now, have no plans to re-sign him.

It's up to Carter to change that.
Justin Durant said he learned soon after arriving in the NFL that versatility equates to a long career.

Durant
That approach has earned Durant, who played some strongside linebacker last season, a starting job with the Dallas Cowboys. It'll take another week or so to learn whether he'll be starting at weakside or middle linebacker.

"Wherever they need me is fine," he said. "They're all a little different. Strongside is the unglamorous spot because you're playing the run and battling those tackles and tight ends. Middle linebacker is nice because you're making the calls and you feel like it's your defense. And weakside is fun because you just chase the ball and make plays."

The Cowboys would prefer for Rolando McClain to earn the job at middle linebacker so Durant could play weakside linebacker, which is considered his best position.

He played in just 10 games last season, starting six, after signing a two-year, $1.96 million deal with the Cowboys. He's poised to have a much bigger role this season.

"Wherever they need me is fine," he said. "I just want to be on the field helping us win games."
Rolando McClain, given an opportunity to win the starting position at middle linebacker, missed Wednesday morning's practice with muscle cramps.

He had a similar issue at the end of practice on Tuesday, according to Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, and it continued this morning.

Garrett said he hoped McClain could participate in the afternoon walk-through practice.

McClain
"It's not an uncommon thing when you come back and start practicing in Texas," Garrett said. "You're always dealing with that balance -- anybody who has ever played any kind of a sport deals with that. Does it just hurt or is it an injury? Am I making it worse by practicing? All those questions come up every day with every player."

McClain, acquired in a trade just before the start of training camp with the Baltimore Ravens, has impressed the Cowboys with his talent. He's a big, physical linebacker who would certainly help one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

But he's also retired from the Oakland Raiders and Ravens in the past year and didn't play last season. Still, he remains an intriguing player and the Cowboys would love for him to win the starting job, which would allow them to play Justin Durant at weakside linebacker, while limiting Bruce Carter to nickel situations.

There have been questions about McClain's commitment to the game since he arrived. He has done little to answer them.

"We're going to take his situation just like everybody's situation -- day by day - and we'll give him a chance to go through the meetings and walk-through this afternoon and come out and practice tomorrow. We'll continue our evaluation of him and do what's best for our football team in regards to him and everybody else."
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 13 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) Before you get yourself all worked up over the possibility of Josh Brent rejoining the Cowboys, understand their desperation level.

This defense gave up 415.3 yards and 27 points a game last season, and there’s no guarantee it will be better. And that’s with a quality defensive staff headed by Rod Marinelli.

SportsNation

Would you like to see Josh Brent return to the Cowboys?

  •  
    71%
  •  
    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,151)

Adding Brent to the roster would really be no different than adding Rolando McClain. They’re taking a chance on a player they might otherwise pass on because the defense needs a talent infusion.

Study the players on the Cowboys’ defensive line, and making the decision to add Brent to the mix isn’t that difficult.

Plus, there’s no guarantee he makes the team. He hasn’t played in more than a year and he wasn’t working out much, if at all, while he was in jail.

Actually, the most interesting aspect of Brent’s potential return is whether Roger Goodell suspends him or counts the year he sat out in retirement as a suspension year.

With all of the criticism Goodell received for the two-game suspension of Baltimore running back Ray Rice, it’s hard to tell whether that will make him issue a tougher penalty than he ordinarily would in the Brent case.

McClain
2) Rolando McClain has some minor hamstring and quadriceps issues, but it’s clear the Cowboys want him on the field.

They say the minor injuries are the result of McClain not participating in the offseason workout program combined with the hard work he has put in since he arrived.

The combination has put his body under some stress. Still, the club is beyond pleased with his work right now.

Don’t be shocked if the starting linebackers against San Francisco are Kyle Wilber, McClain and Justin Durant.

Bruce Carter has work to do.

3) The screen pass looks like it’s going to be a bigger part of the Cowboys’ offense than it has been, which would make sense.

Play-caller Scott Linehan used them frequently with running back Reggie Bush last season, All of the lineman except Ron Leary would be considered quality blockers in space, and DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar have good hands.

Screen plays don’t work without the coaching staff committed to the practice time it takes to get good at executing them.

Key number: 37

The Cowboys problem last season wasn’t moving the ball. They had just 37 three-and-outs in 183 possessions.

Only six teams had a higher percentage and five made the playoffs. Now, the Cowboys need to score touchdowns instead of kick field goals.

Do so, and they might be able to protect their defense and win some games.

Player to Watch: Devin Street


The fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh is a smooth receiver who has the size the Cowboys these days at 6-3 and 200 pounds, but his task right now is to get stronger.

He’ll have to get bigger, so he can be physical enough to get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage and to create separation with all of the hand-fighting that goes on between receivers and defensive backs.

He scored a couple of touchdowns in the Cowboys Blue & White scrimmage, but if he wants playing time this season he’ll have to do it on special teams unless there’s an injury.

The Cowboys like their group at receiver, so they don’t need to rush Street into the lineup. They can develop him slowly and let receivers coach Derek Dooley help him improve.

Cowboys look to help Rolando McClain

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
9:00
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OXNARD, Calif. -- There are three good reasons why twice-retired, thrice-arrested linebacker Rolando McClain was worth the risk for the Dallas Cowboys.

First, as owner/general manager Jerry Jones frankly said, the Cowboys had a major need at middle linebacker after Sean Lee's season-ending knee injury suffered on the first day of organized team activities in May.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellThere was little risk for the Cowboys in trading for Rolando McClain, as his talent is worth the low price tag.
Second, the Cowboys didn’t give up much in the deal with the Baltimore Ravens, who won’t receive any compensation if McClain doesn’t make the Dallas roster. At most, the Cowboys would send their sixth-round pick to Baltimore for the Ravens’ seventh-rounder.

Finally, McClain is a phenomenal talent, a former eighth overall pick who just turned 25 years old.

Head coach Jason Garrett distinctly recalls a visit to the Alabama campus when McClain was a sophomore. Alabama coach Nick Saban gushed to Garrett that McClain “might be one of the best players I ever coached.”

“When a guy like that says that, who’s been around for as long as he has and has so many good players, it kind of gets your attention,” Garrett said. “So I can remember watching him in college and certainly we evaluated him very closely coming out. He was a top-10 pick by the Raiders when he came out of school and someone who has an immense amount of ability and, more than that, production. He was a really, really good college player and I think people have a lot of hopes for him as a pro player.

“Certainly he’s had some issues since he’s been in the NFL -- played a couple of years, retired, unretired -- and the research that we did, the due diligence we did, both with Coach Saban and other people who have been around him, we felt like with his ability with the kind of person he’s demonstrated himself to be in the past, maybe we can help him through some of these issues he has and get this guy back playing at the level we all thought he was capable of playing.”

In case the Cowboys needed any reminder of the red flags regarding McClain’s character, he will miss Friday’s practice to return to Alabama to attend his trial on April 2013 charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Garrett said the Cowboys expect McClain to return to camp over the weekend.

McClain came out of retirement to join the Cowboys, who signed him to a one-year deal with no guaranteed money. At the time, agent Pat Dye said the big-hitting linebacker “sounds as excited about football as I’ve ever heard him.”

Jones hinted that McClain’s financial situation could serve as strong motivation for fulfilling his football potential. The Cowboys clearly hope that the third time is the charm for McClain’s NFL career.

“I have a known a lot of people, a lot of successful people, that quit and then got it together and turned it around and came back and really made something of what they quit actually, in many cases,” Jones said. “I've seen it happen several times in sports. Certainly I have seen it happen in short periods of time with frustration.

“I have a little empathy. He’s got a very plausible experience as to what has impacted him off the field. We all say that you’ve got to be a pro and work through that stuff. I, too, have first-hand seen people that have worked through things better than others. If you get behind them, they can go on to very productive. So based upon his background, his story, based upon the nature of why he’s here -- his health, which is good—all those things, in my mind, he’s a great opportunity for our team.”
Three Thoughts
  • Garrett
    Garrett
    Coach Jason Garrett believes the annual conditioning test is important. He’s said as much many times. There is no way he canceled it, and let the players administer it without any coaches around to oversee it and make sure everyone passed.If that were the case, it would be like an open-book test and all of us could pass it. After all, which teammate is gonna tell Garrett which players flunked it. Actually, Garrett wouldn’t even want to put his players in that position.It’s not a huge story, but there’s something missing in this narrative concerning the players administering their own conditioning test.It probably has something to do with the team not being allowed to make the players do anything in the 10 days before training camp begins and a desire for the players to do the test at their Valley Ranch training complex instead of Oxnard.We’ll get answers Wednesday afternoon, when Garrett addresses the media for the first time.
  • You can’t possibly have any expectations for linebacker Rolando McClain, the eighth player selected in the 2010 draft. He’s now with his third team since the end of the 2012 season -- also the last time he played.He told the Baltimore Ravens a few months ago that he wanted to retire because his heart wasn’t in the game.The game is too tough and too physically demanding to persuade players to play. The Cowboys need players and McClain has talent, the question is whether McClain wants to work hard enough to play in this league.
  • Lance Dunbar had the best game of his career against Oakland last season -- 12 carries for 82 yards and one reception for 12 yards -- and displayed the change-of-pace skill set Garrett has talked about since he arrived two seasons ago.But he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during that game, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. In his third season, the Cowboys need him to be the playmaker they envision, or he probably won’t get a fourth year to show them.
Key stat: 736 yards receiving by third-round pick Terrance Williams ranked third among rookies. His 44 receptions ranked fifth and his five touchdowns ranked second.

You could easily argue Williams had the second-best season among the 28 rookie receivers drafted -- six in the first two rounds -- last year. Only San Diego’s Keenan Allen, taken two picks after Williams, had a better season.

He finished with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns.

Player to watch: DeVonte Holloman will probably start training camp as the backup to Kyle Wilber at strongside linebacker. He showed an ability in the preseason and in limited playing time last season to make plays. That’s an intangible quality the Cowboys must figure how to exploit, especially on a unit devoid of playmakers. He doesn’t have to start, but it would be nice if he forced the Cowboys to play him 25 plays a game.

Rolando McClain arrives at camp, for now

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
8:50
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Rolando McClain made the flight to Naval Base Ventura County on Tuesday, but the linebacker might not be around when the Dallas Cowboys open practice on Thursday.

McClain
McClain is due in Decatur (Alabama) Municipal Court on Friday after Judge Bill Cook Jr. declined to delay a trial stemming from charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Decatur Municipal Court Clerk Jessica Haggard said the case has been postponed three times since McClain’s arrest in April 2013.

The Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens agreed to a trade July 1 that sent McClain, who has retired twice in the last two years, to the Cowboys in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2016 provided McClain is on the 53-man roster for five games, or the 46-man roster for three games, and only if their pick is better than the Ravens' pick in the round. If it is, then the teams will swap selections. If the Ravens finish with a worse record in 2014, then there is no swap.

If McClain plays in 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, then the Ravens would receive the Cowboys' sixth-round pick in 2015 and the Cowboys would receive Baltimore’s seventh-round pick that year.

McClain, who was the No. 8 pick in the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders, has not played since November 2012, but the Cowboys could look at him as a replacement for Sean Lee, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He could also be in the mix as a strongside linebacker.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
11:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.

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