Training camp battles: middle linebacker

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
12:00
PM ET
With the start of training camp coming next week, we review the five biggest position battles with the Dallas Cowboys.

Middle linebacker

The favorite: Justin Durant

The contenders: Anthony Hitchens, DeVonte Holloman and Rolando McClain.

Outlook: With Sean Lee out for the season with a torn ACL, the Cowboys turned to Durant to become the Mike linebacker. He’s got experience at the position with the Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars (13 starts). Whether he's good at the position is another story. The Cowboys do like Durant's ability to play the run, but are unsure about his pass-coverage skills. There are younger players behind Durant in draft pick Hitchens, who was selected to back up Lee. Hitchens might not be ready to move into this role full-time at this stage of his development. Holloman can play two of the three linebacker spots in the 4-3, yet, his inexperience is a concern. McClain is another possibility; he's coming out of retirement and a failed workout with the Baltimore Ravens this spring. If McClain can get into shape mentally and physically, he’s the wild card and might push Durant in some ways.

Who wins?: Durant maintains the spot for now, however, this might change as the season progresses. Given his injury history, Hitchens is somebody to watch closely this summer. It will be Lee's spot longterm, regardless.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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