DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
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R. McClain Flashes In Preseason Debut With Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s been a busy week for Rolando McClain.
The Cowboys’ oft-discussed offseason acquisition was in and out of the lineup for much of the early going in training camp. That has changed dramatically in the last five days, as McClain got plenty of work in joint practices against the Raiders and no shortage of playing time in Saturday’s preseason loss to Baltimore.
“I liked what he did out there,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “He got some good snaps, more than I thought he would get out there, and he did real well.”
McClain led the all defenders with six tackles -- one more than his Alabama counterpart in Baltimore, C.J. Mosley. Most of that work came with the Cowboys’ second-team defense, as he entered the game for Baltimore’s third series and remained into the third quarter.
“Hard to assess it without watching the tape, but he definitely showed up a couple of times. There was a play right on our bench where he pulled the ball out,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He’s done an excellent job running to the ball, being physical as a tackler and then getting the ball out.”
The play Garrett described came during McClain’s best stretch of the game, when Baltimore was driving with time winding down before halftime. Joe Flacco connected with Baltimore running back Justin Forsett for a 12-yard game, and McClain to deliver a big blow – forcing a fumble out of bounds.
Six plays later, Flacco looked for tight end Dennis Pitta on a 3rd-and-4, only for McClain to break up the pass and force a Baltimore field goal.
“We knew and felt that he was good in coverage and he showed tonight that he could drop back good and gets a good feel for coverage out there,” Jones said.
If McClain continues to improve, it could create a position battle at middle linebacker with Justin Durant – something the Cowboys would probably prefer. The possibility of playing one of the two in the middle and the other on the outside has been discussed, but McClain remained at the Mike spot Saturday, behind Durant.
“He had a little bit of a burden being out there and making the calls and communicating. We’ll see how that went, making sure everybody’s on the same page,” Garrett said. “But that’s what he needs to do. He needs to play in this defensive scheme and we tried to give him a chance to do that tonight.”