Did a strong opinion immediately come to your mind upon reading his name? Did you shake your head? Did you think of his intimidating presence on the field? Did you think of his still untapped potential?
Whatever your initial reaction, it is hard to doubt that Rolando is a lightning road for conversation; both positive and negative. Before the Cowboys traded for the then retired McClain prior to the 2014 season his reputation throughout the league was extremely damaged.
He had a major incident with the Oakland Raiders who selected him 4th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, where his mental makeup became heavily questioned. Which quickly found him suspended by his former team. On April 5th, 2013 the Raiders officially waived McClain after a disappointing tenure in Oakland. He was quickly signed by the defending Super Bowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens on April 10th, hoping he could resurrect his career and hope to fill the shoes of the retiring Ray Lewis.
That surely did not come to pass.
McClain was arrested for his third time in hometown in less than two years. He had only been apart of the Ravens for a little over a week and his stay would not last much longer. He would retire a few weeks later in mid-May, only to make his return and retire for a second time in April 2014.
McClain would find another chance after Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities (OTAs) the following month, a heartbreaking event for the team and Cowboys fans everywhere. The Cowboys had a huge void to fill at Mike Linebacker (Middle Linebacker); thus leading to the trade for the troubled, twice retired Rolando McClain.
The trade worked out in the Cowboys favor. While studying film last year, it was easy to see the player McClain could be when he put his mind to it.
The 6'4, 250 plus Linebacker has the build of a player that could play either Defensive End position. When playing down and filling holes in the run game he showed to be what I call a "Striker" who does not just get the Running Back to the ground, but delivers a solid strike that will not be forgotten. He also had a knack for making impact plays such as his Interception against Seattle to seal the game in the 4th quarter.
While he has his struggles tackling in the open field, can get out of position, and is not the best in coverage, his physical nature against the run made a huge difference, which was seen when he was not in the lineup last season.
However, the critique on his mental state did not go away last season. As many questioned his willingness to practice, believing he may not be the "Right Kind Of Guy" that Coach Garrett often mentions. McClain addressed the situation almost a month ago, defending the missed practices.
Despite the questions, the Cowboys re-signed McClain this spring to a one-year deal, but the questions of his health remain with him having knee arthroscopy (scope) performed in early May by reports from Coach Garrett. After stating McClain had the surgery early in the Press Conference in his immediate answer he stated, "We believe in practice, we believe in the offseason program." in a response regarding Dez Bryant and his holdout.
Very interesting and may give some insight to Coach Garrett's feelings surrounding the situation with McClain. Which has become even more frustrating as typical belief is that a player can return to mild activity after six weeks following the procedure. McClain missed all of OTAs and has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list since the beginning of Training Camp.
While the exact date of the surgery is not known, it has been well past the six weeks and there is still no timetable for his return to the practice field. While not everyone has the same recovery speed, there is still reason for concern. The offseason drama with Rolando did not stop there; he was suspended 4 games for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy in early July. Which is significant to his injury concerns as per Article 3.2.1 of the policy, a suspended player cannot partake in any practices with the team.
If Rolando does not return to the practice field during the Preseason, he will not be eligible to do so until the start of the 5th week of the Regular Season. Which could easily lead to him missing several other games from not being in game shape. And so this is the Curious Case Of Rolando McClain the Dallas Cowboys are faced with.
Talkin Cowboys co-host, 6 time Pro Bowler, and 3 time Super Bowl Champion Nate Newton has questioned whether McClain has the desire to be on the practice field recently, while Cowboys Break co-host and former Super Bowl winning Scout Bryan Broaddus has reiterated that there is no timetable for McClain and there is not much else to say on the player at the moment.
Hopefully, we will have answers on Rolando McClain soon. If everything works out well he will become a solid contributor for the defense this season. The likelihood of that happening is the same as his practice status the rest of camp...
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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