Dec 21, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain (55) smiles on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Cowboys surprised everyone with their improved defense last season. Instead of being the last ranked defense in every category and giving up over 400 yards a game, the Cowboys’ defense ranked 15th in the league and forced 27 sacks and 18 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t anything to brag about or numbers that great defenses put up while chasing a Super Bowl. But for the Dallas Cowboys, their 15th ranked defense carried them all the way to a 12-4 record, going 8-0 on the road, undefeated in December, winning the NFC East, and beating the Detroit Lions in the first round of the Playoffs.
Throughout the season, the Cowboys defense made big play after big play to preserve a victory or make an important stop on fourth down. Morris Claiborne made a game ending interception against the Rams after the Cowboys were down by 21. Rolando McClain made an all important game winning interception against the Seahawks and their 12th man, in a game the Cowboys weren’t expected to win. And in one of the biggest upsets of the season, rookie DE Demarcus Lawrence had a sack and a forced fumble to end the game against the Lions and give the Cowboys their second playoff victory in five years.
Even in the playoff loss to the Packers, the defense played good until the fourth quarter.
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Of all the players who made big plays on defense, McClain stood out the most because honestly, the Cowboys didn’t know what they were going to get from the twice retired and malcontent former first rounder. Although he played in 12 games, he finished second on the team in tackles, with two interceptions and a forced fumble and a sack. McClain was playing on pure talent because he had been out of football for the last 18 months.
Imagine what this stud can do with mini camps and a full training camp? Not to mention being in football shape. But the problem is the Cowboys are having a hard time re-signing him. And that’s not good.
Because McClain is clearly the best LB the Cowboys have and they already lost Justin Durant and Bruce Carter to FA. And now they could lose McClain, too. The Cowboys can’t afford to lose McClain because Sean Lee is recovering from a torn ACL and he’s injury prone. That leaves an up and coming Anthony Hitchens.
So the Cowboys need to re-sign the athletic and talented McClain.
And the Cowboys need Greg Hardy services. And I’m not talking about for eight games or how ever many games he plays because of a looming suspension that is likely to come from Roger Goodell. For this defense to be formidable or to create havoc on opposing quarterbacks and offenses, it’s going to need Hardy and McClain. For the Cowboys sake, they will need Hardy for most of the season, not half. It’s that simple.
Hardy had 15 sacks, 25 QB hits, and 44 hurries in 2013. His last full season. In 2012, he tallied 11 sacks, with 12 QB hits and 34 hurries. That’s 26 sacks in two years, 27 hits on a QB, and 78 hurries.
The Cowboys’ defense only had 27 sacks last year. Hardy almost surpassed the whole team’s sack total in two seasons. That’s why the Cowboys signed him. Regardless of his legalities.
And 78 hurries means Hardy scared the hell out of the QB’s so bad that they were running for their lifes.
Yes. The Cowboys will need Hardy if they are to have a successful season and make it to the playoffs. They will need McClain, too, if they want to have a strong front seven. But the Cowboys need them because of their weak secondary, except for Orlando Scandrick.
And Brandon Carr can only benefit from Hardy’s pass rushing skills.
I realize Hardy will miss some games. But the Cowboys need him. And I know Rod Marinelli is masterful at getting the best out of his players, even average players.
But you don’t win with average players.
You win with the best. The elite.
And McClain and Hardy fall into that category.