After the Injury Heard ‘round Cowboys Nation (Sean Lee, of course), the Cowboys went into full panic mode. The defense was a mess.
From the start it was largely devoid of talent and was relying on a couple key players to hold it all together – Henry Melton up front, Sean Lee in the middle, and Barry Church in the secondary. Of the three, Lee was the most irreplaceable, serving as the team’s top playmaker, play-caller, and leader. When Lee was lost, so was hope.
This Cowboys defense was never going to be good. The worst defense in 2013 did little to upgrade and arguably lost talent going into 2014. With Lee gone they needed a “Hail Mary” to man the MIKE spot in the middle. Justin Durant was ok but he is a low ceiling/respectable floor kinda guy.
Rolando McClain? He was exactly the high ceiling/bottomless pit the Cowboys like to gamble on. With such a low price tag (700k), low conditional draft compensation (7th round pick), and high draft status (1st rounder), Why not? “It’s not like the Cowboys could get any worse”, was the popular sentiment.
McClain has many well documented issues, but he does have pedigree. Not too long ago he was a defensive leader of the NCAA champion Alabama team. He has the skills, he just has loads of other baggage. The Cowboys are banking on the skills.
The team has been very clear with their intentions to let McClain compete for the starting spot in the middle. They even seem to be unabashedly pulling for him to win the spot. Current MIKE starter, Justin Durant isn’t bad…he’s just not very good either (the forced fumble not withstanding).
Durant is best suited to play the SAM role anyway. It’s where he has experience and where he excels. The Cowboys have seen enough from McClain to know he has the tools to grab the MIKE spot. He will be given every opportunity this training camp, and if he can stay healthy (and unretired), it should be his spot in Week 1.
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