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Rolando McClain: The man in the middle

Brian Leatherman

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Cowboys Blog - Rolando McClain: The man in the middle

I can remember hearing the news this past summer; the Dallas Cowboys have traded a 7th round pick for the rights to Rolando McClain. My initial thought was he’s retired, how’s that going to work? Well, come to find out. Jerry had already talked with McClain during the summer and with the connection between Jason Garrett and Nick Saban, it started to make sense how it how unfolded.

I remember the laughs and hearing, “Jerry, you're so stupid” and "the Dallas Cowboys are the dumbest team in the league". I responded to someone on twitter who said that, in fact, and he told me that me and the Cowboys needed to do our homework and find out about McClain’s history.

I laughed at that response because Jerry Jones gave up a 7th round pick, but if McClain gets the retirement bug again at some point, then the Ravens would get nothing. THERE IS NO RISK.

Needless to say, I heard nothing back from him...

I also remember hearing people say he wouldn’t make it out of training camp, and when McClain would sit out a practice those same people were screaming “I told you so”.

However, training camp came and went, and McClain was still there. So on to the preseason games. Some people were saying he had lost his ability and he didn’t look like he wanted to be there, while others were saying they didn’t think he was that good to begin with.

But after each preseason game you started to see some change. You started to hear how he was progressing and was pushing for the starting job at middle linebacker; a job that was supposed to be locked up by Justin Durant.

Fast-forward to the week of the first game and word came out that the starting linebackers were going to be Bruce Carter, Justin Durant… and Rolando McClain.

Besides a handful of fans and the Cowboys organization, not too many people gave him much of a chance at all. He’s proved those naysayers wrong just by winning a starting job. But that wasn’t enough. The media would say the only reason he got the starting gig was because there was nobody else to compete with in this horrible defense.

Week 1: San Francisco 49ers

So the first game of the season rolls around and we finally get to see what McClain is capable of. Well, I don’t have to tell you what he did, most of you know by now. But suffice it to say that he showed a lot of people there was something there in his game.

But for those that didn't know, here's a rundown of how he played.

He was quick to the ball, he was good at fighting off blocks, he was hustling his butt off, and he was laying some bone crushing hits. I literally thought he might have put his helmet through Colin Kaepernick’s chest at one point. When I saw him wrapping people up for a tackle, he wasn’t just taking them down, he was aggressively slamming them into the ground. Frank Gore was the recipient of a couple of those tackles.

The Cowboys lost that game because of turnovers by the offense. So McClain’s effort was left in the shadows. The media still had them as the worst defense in the league despite only giving up 14 points and holding the Niners running game in check.

Week 2: Tennessee Titans

So, on to game two. The Titans had just defeated the Chiefs in Kansas City and nobody was giving the Cowboys a chance to win this game. All the fantasy gurus were saying start everyone from the Titans offense, that it was gonna be a slaughter.

Didn’t work out that way though, did it?

Instead, the Cowboys were the ones wielding the sledgehammers. And the one guy who stood out the most from that defensive effort in Sunday's win over the Titans was Rolando McClain. He started to show why he was a top 10 pick in the first place.

McClain was a flat-out beast. DeMarco Murray was a beast on that day, too, but Rolando McClain was a nasty man-beast against the football Titans.

I literally thought he was going to kill people by the way he was slinging folks around like rag dolls. And it wasn’t just one tackle... it happened on almost every tackle he made. And when he wasn’t slinging running backs and wide receivers around, he was sacking Jake Locker and making one of the best interceptions I had ever seen.

Week 3 and beyond

This defense isn’t the same defense we suffered last year and the media, for some reason, are just now catching on to that. Rolando McClain is a huge reason for that. He's brought instinct and a physicality and nastiness to this team that’s been lacking for years and years. Word is out that he gets teammates pumped up to a level they’ve never been. Not too sure about this, but I think that sounds like a leader to me.

I knew the dog was always in him as a player, but I wasn’t sure if he was where he truly needed - or wanted - to be in his life. After hearing McClain speak about playing football again, I don’t have any more questions about him.

After the Titans game, McClain talked with reporters about this very subject:

“I didn’t deserve to play football, so to say,” McClain said of retirement. “I wasn’t all the way there in the game. So you ain’t going to be the best if you ain’t focused on the job, so I needed to take time to do what was important, get myself right, and I got that right and now I’m in a great organization, got some great teammates and just happy to play football again.”

McClain also said this about Jerry Jones calling him this past summer:

I’m thrilled he did give me a call,” McClain said Sunday. “There weren’t many teams that I would have left the couch for, and this is one of them, and I’m glad that he did.”  

I think McClain can be better. He’s only 25 years of age and finally has the desire to play; he has the right kind of attitude to help his team win.

I know it’s still early in the season and anything can happen… but like McClain saying he was glad Jerry called him, I’m happy Jerry Jones called McClain as well, and when it's all said and done I think we will all be happy about Jerry calling Rolando McClain.



Brian has been a football junkie from the time he was 5 years old. He lives, eats and breathes the game. Brian is a college graduate living in the south who loves his faith, his family, and his Dallas Cowboys.

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Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw

Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.

The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.

The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.

But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.

Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.

It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.

Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.



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BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys

Jess Haynie

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Takeaway Tuesday: What We Learned From Cowboys Loss To Packers
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.

Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.

David Moore on Twitter

Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.

After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.

The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.

While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.

While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.

The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.



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A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper was a game changing player from the moment he showed up at The Star in Frisco, Texas. In the first game against the Tennessee Titans, you could just tell that this was a different kind of player. The Cowboys hadn't had a wide receiver with his mixture of size and skill.

Cooper to me showed off the brilliant route running of Cole Beasley, in a body similar to Dez Bryant. Oh, and with 4.4 speed.

Electric.

But Amari Cooper's presence with the Dallas Cowboys may not have happened in 2018 if any one of a number of dominoes didn't fall during the 2018 offseason and regular season.

Shunned by Sammy

Early in the free agency period, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys had brought in Sammy Watkins and made him a lucrative offer that would have paid him around $16 million per year, but as Patrik Walker from 247 Sports discussed, he ultimately signed with the Kansas City Chiefs for more guaranteed money.

I recall first the feeling of dread when I heard about the pursuit of Sammy Watkins, immediately followed by relief when I saw that he signed with the Chiefs. I was in the midst of a government mandated internet blackout.

Don't get me wrong, Sammy Watkins is a fine player, but he isn't a $16 million per year player. Aside from his athleticism and size he doesn't really bring much to the table. He was pretty much a younger, and similarly injury prone -- at their respective points in their careers -- as Dez Bryant.

In 2018, Watkins only played in 10 games for the Chiefs and barely passed the 500 yard mark while catching only three touchdowns. Now, he's not the top priority in the Chiefs passing game, but he's not a player that can be relied upon to lead an offense.

Had the Cowboys signed Watkins last offseason, it's highly unlikely that they would have traded a 2019 first round draft pick to add another wide receiver in Amari Cooper.

Dez Bryant Goes Bye-Bye

The next thing that happened that may not have, was the release of long-time Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant had been with the team since 2010, when the team made him their first round pick that season. After post really good numbers from 2012-2014, Dez had a drop off in production, mostly due to injuries in the 2015-2017 seasons.

Dez Bryant, a fan favorite, was a player that relied upon his superior athletic ability, physicality, toughness, and ability to get passes in the air that made him special. Injuries to his legs and feet started to rob him of his athletic ability. Combine that with the fact that he and Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott could never really get on the same page when it came to fade routes, traditional or of the back shoulder variety.

Had the Cowboys not made the decision to move on from Bryant, the Cowboys offense would have probably been better the first seven games of the season. They may not have necessitated allocating a first round pick to acquire Cooper and it's possible he gets traded somewhere else or stays in Oakland altogether.

Poor Starts to the Season

The Oakland Raiders went into the 2018 season having made a lot of noise by signing Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth and trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. After a 1-5 start to their season, the fire sale continued as they put Amari Cooper on the trade block.

The Dallas Cowboys started the season 3-4, but looked much worse on offense than what we could have anticipated. We knew they would take a bit of a step back in the passing game as they were trying to work in new faces, but it was bad for the first seven, and really eight weeks of the season.

The Cowboys went into the season with a plan to use their wide receiver group as a committee to try and fill their needs with several players of varying skill sets. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it was a debacle. Receivers not named Cole Beasley, struggled to get open and the offense was listless through the first two months of the season.

Had either team been better than they were to start the season, the chance of a trade taking place would have been small. Teams like to think they can get by with what they have. Had the Cowboys been 4-3 instead of 3-4, they may have thought they could get by with Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Michael Gallup as their lead receivers.

Trade Compensation

It was rumored that prior to the Dallas Cowboys sending their 2019 first round pick to the Oakland Raiders that the Philadelphia Eagles offered a second. The Raiders, who were looking to stock pile picks to rebuild, held out for the first they desired for their former 2x Pro Bowler.

Had the Raiders took the Eagles offer as the best offer on the table at the time, the Cowboys would have missed out on Cooper and likely missed out on the division and the playoffs in 2018. On the flip side, we know how much the Cowboys value their draft picks. We've seen them pass on game changing player who would have cost much less because they value their draft picks and believe in their ability to find difference makers in any round.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys were really fortunate to end up with Amari Cooper. If any of the above things goes differently, it's extremely unlikely that he's wearing a Cowboys uniform in 2018 at all. Now, coming off a 1,000 yard season -- in only 15 games -- and a Pro Bowl appearance, Cooper is set to get paid some big money by the Dallas Cowboys front office. As they get ready to pay Cooper upwards of $16 million a year or more, they should have only one thought on their mind for the good fortune that brought Cooper to Dallas;

Thankfulness. 



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