Before Rolando McClain joined the Dallas Cowboys on July 1st, 2014, he had retired from the NFL twice, had been arrested three times and hadn't played a down in the NFL since November 2012.
But he's come a long way since then. On Sunday, he'll be stepping onto the field as a starter against the San Francisco 49ers, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said today when asked if McClain would take to the field as a starter.
"Yeah, I think he’ll have a good chance to be in there," Marinelli said. "We’re coming off a Thursday practice. But we’ll see how it goes."
"I expect him to be really a heck of a linebacker for us. "I think he’s got great range. He’s got length. He’s smart. He’s a real physical player. It’s just – getting him going."
After Sean Lee suffered a season-ending injury early in OTAs, the Cowboys were long on questions and short on answers for the MLB spot. The Cowboys swapped late-round picks with the Ravens for McClain's rights, and when he was brought in it was considered a low-risk move that would allow the Cowboys to kick the tires on a player who once had a whole lot of people excited about his potential. At the time, we wrote:
We know from the Cowboys' leaked draft board in 2010 that the Cowboys had McClain ranked as the No. 7 player on their board, so if they manage to activate McClain's potential - and if he doesn't retire again - this could turn into a big win for the Cowboys.
How much of a win McClain will ultimately be for the Cowboys remains to be seen, in part because it's not entirely clear yet whether McClain got the nod as a starter by default or on merit.
But when you'll hear Colin Kaepernick calling out "55 is the Mike! 55 is the Mike!", you'll know that Rolando McClain has arrived back in the NFL.
For now, the Cowboys are not trying to overload McClain, and are leaving the defensive play-calling duties with Justin Durant.
"I think he’s had a lot of time at the MIKE and he’s really good at it," Marinelli said of Durant calling plays. "I think he’ll be very comfortable doing that."
Marinelli's statements also clear up who the starting linebackers will be on Sunday: Bruce Carter will be the starter at the strongside spot, Rolando McClain will be the middle linebacker andwill man the weakside position.
All of this could lead to an interesting on-field constellation, as BTB-member TrustNo1 recently observed:
At some point in 2014, the Dallas Cowboys could have three SEC Defensive Players Of The Year and the field at the same time, Rolando McClain (2009), Morris Claiborne (2011), and Michael Sam (2013).