Imagine if Rolando McClain showed up in Dallas today.
First, he'd probably show up over at Valley Ranch. Security would have to inform him that the team had moved to the new facility, The Star. Rolando would ask for directions and head 30 miles north to Frisco.
If he didn't get distracted along the way, Rolando would arrive to find out that the team had already departed for Seattle for tonight's game. Bemused and dejected, he would ask if he could at least check out the new facility. Someone would take pity on him and let him into The Star.
Rolando McClain would be in awe of the gorgeous new facility. He'd be so excited about being able to work here next week, then take a 10-week break, then come back in November.
Rolando would get to the locker room. Naturally, he'd start looking for his name and number. He'd look... and look... and look.
Eventually, Rolando would ask whoever was attending him what was up. Where was his locker? Had there been a clerical error?
Somewhere in that room is a locker for number 94, Randy Gregory. Both Gregory and Rolando McClain did not report to the Cowboys training camp. Neither is currently counted on the team's roster.
One guy has a locker at The Star. The other doesn't.
Some want to paint McClain and Gregory with the same broad stroke. They're both "knuckleheads" or "druggies." They're both hurting the image of the Dallas Cowboys and should be released.
Clearly, the Cowboys don't see it that way. Neither do I.
Rolando McClain is 27-years-old. This is his third team since entering the league in 2010. He's been out of the NFL and come back more than once, even having retired at one point and missing all of 2013. He is facing 10-game suspension this year for using a "purple drank" and was reportedly severely out of shape when he showed up for the team's summer practices.
Randy Gregory is still just 23-years-old and was a rookie last year. By all accounts, Gregory is a hard worker and was only held back last year by injuries. He faces his own suspension this year, still officially just four games, for repeated offenses with marijuana.
Both guys clearly have their issues and personal demons. However, there's a very important line that has to be drawn.
Gregory has a drug problem. McClain has an attitude problem.
McClain's two years in Dallas have been a testament to his incredible talent and yet a reminder of how much of it is wasted. He's never been "all in" with the Cowboys. He doesn't fight to play through minor injuries. One can only assume that his conditioning and preparation for games isn't what it could be.
And yet, when on the field, Rolando McClain can still be an impact player. His natural gifts are that strong.
Dallas clearly sees that they can't help McClain change who he is and how he views his football career. Rolando doesn't care about his teammates. He doesn't care enough to be here through camp and preseason and help guys like Anthony Hitchens and Mark Nzeocha be ready to play in his absence.
Rolando is a self-centered mercenary. He has been for two years. And now the Cowboys are done paying for his services.
If you've lived long enough to know the difference between 23 and 27, you know why the Cowboys may feel differently about Randy Gregory. You probably understand why he still has a locker.
Obviously, Gregory's story may not have a happy ending. He could wind up on that tall scrap heap of former NFL players who wasted their talent and fell out of the league, be it to their own selfish interests, personal problems, or a mix of the two.
But right now, Gregory seems to be acknowledging his issues and is taking steps to work on them. That's all the Cowboys can ask for now, and it's enough to merit their continued support and the hope for a positive outcome.
One guy's checked himself into rehab. The other's completely checked out.
That's why Randy Gregory still has a locker and Rolando McClain doesn't. Seems perfectly logical to me.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
Cedrick Wilson: Cowboys WR Could Shine After a Year Off
The departure of Cole Beasley to Buffalo via free agency in March left a hole at the slot receiver position in Dallas. The team signed veteran Randall Cobb about a week later, but only to a one year deal. Names like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns along with Cobb are looked at as the replacement for Beasley but don't forget about Cedrick Wilson.
Selected in the sixth round in 2018, Wilson was coming off an impressive and highly productive two-year career at Boise State. Tallying 139 receptions for 2,640 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 26 games.
When OTA's began last season, the rookie was already turning heads with his route running, ability to create separation and athleticism, but unfortunately, disaster happened not long afterward. Wilson would suffer a shoulder injury that placed him on injured reserve for 2018, the same shoulder he had issues with in college. A not so fairy tale beginning to an NFL career.
Although his time on the field was short-lived last summer, he definitely caught the eye of wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
"Ced's a savvy, smart football player. He picks things up really well. He applies them to the field. In terms of technique, he's one of the best if you watch him. His stance and start is really good. He comes off the ball with low pad level. He's eating up ground and then has a nack to make a big play over the top on a big post," Lal said.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb make up a very formidable receiving core, and adding a healthy Wilson to that could work wonders. His experience on the outside and the slot gives offensive coordinator Kellen Moore plenty of options. Slot receivers are usually harder to bump off the line with the extra few yards of cushion they get, giving them more options route wise seeing as they can go inside or out a lot easier than outside receivers. That's where Wilson's supreme route running can come into play. Also, with his ability to separate on the outside and beat corners deep, you can play him opposite Amari Cooper and put Cobb in the slot with a combination of either Gallup, Austin or Hurns in a four-wide receiver set, the possibilities are endless.
A setback can be a blessing in disguise if approached in the right manner. Wilson hasn't let the year off derail his focus on what he's trying to do in Dallas.
"Coming back off the rehab was tough in general. But definitely a year of just seeing how everything goes, the speed is definitely slowing down. Just getting back in the playbook and learning from older guys of what I need to do and doing what the coaches expect of me," Wilson said.
The competition won't be easy for Wilson, though, as other young up and coming receivers are fighting for roster spots as well. UDFA's (Undrafted Free Agents) Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton will also be fighting for snaps during mini-camp, with the former already making waves during OTA's. Reggie Davis has also turned a few heads in the summer, a fellow UDFA himself trying to find a home after bouncing around the league between four different teams since 2017.
It's all about health for Cedrick Wilson at this point. Can his shoulder hold up enough to allow his skill set to make a contribution to the Cowboys in 2019? The talent is there, along with the praises of his position coach, now it'll be interesting to see if this potential diamond in the rough can shine under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.
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