NFL

Rolando McClain’s Puts The Dallas Cowboys In A Bind

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Get healthy quick, Jaylon Smith.

Rolando McClain was suspended for 10 games on Thursday for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, which is just another event in a string of mishaps McClain has had since he was drafted. Last year, McClain was suspended for the first four games of the season for a similar infraction.

Not only did McClain let down his teammates and coaches, he put the Cowboys defense in a serious. Even with all of his warts, McClain was a darn good “Mike” linebacker when he wanted to be. He didn’t always play like one, but he was head and shoulders above any other “Mike” linebacker on the roster. McClain was a force against the run as he had the size and strength to attack blockers at the point of attack. Furthermore, McClain was adept at dropping into zone coverage as evidenced by his interception against the Miami Dolphins last year.

Now, the Cowboys have must look for his replacement. Jaylon Smith is the ideal replacement, but he must return from his significant knee injury he suffered during his last game at Notre Dame. Most estimates have him returning in 2017; therefore, the Cowboys will have to turn to other less talented options.

Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Andrew Gachkar and Mark Nzeocha are likely to battle it out for the coveted spot.

Hitchens is the most experienced player out of the four as he replaced McClain when he was injured last year. Hitchens is a solid player, but he is at his best when he plays as a “Will” linebacker. He doesn’t have the size or power to be able to stack and shed offensive linemen.

Wilson is an extremely athletic linebacker who struggled a bit last year. Like Hitchens, Wilson’s best position is on the weak side as he doesn’t do well fighting off of blocks.

Gachkar is a more traditionally sized inside linebacker, but he lacks the instincts to flow to the ball as quickly as he should. Furthermore, Gachkar is a huge liability in coverage as he doesn’t have the spatial awareness to beat adept in zone drops.

Nzeocha is the wild card of the group, as he hasn’t seen any playing time as of yet. He is the most athletic of the group, and he has the size profile the Cowboys look for at inside linebacker. In college, Nzeocha didn’t have the best instincts, but it will be interesting to see how it has developed with one year under his belt.

Ultimately, each of these “Mike” linebacker candidates have huge flaws and none of them are very enticing options to start the year. Hitchens is the favorite to win the job because he has the most experience, which the coaching staff covets.

Another avenue the Cowboys may go is through free agency. There are a couple players who are worth a look, specifically, Justin Durant who has experience playing in this scheme at a relatively high level.

Thus far, McClain has been worth trouble with his off-field issues; however, this infraction should be the last straw. McClain doesn’t deserve to play with the Cowboys anymore. He just isn’t worth the trouble anymore.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com