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Durant Tries Will As Cowboys Evaluate Rolando McClain
IRVING, Texas – Justin Durant has performed admirably at middle linebacker in place of Sean Lee, but it’s hardly his natural position.
Durant has played seven seasons in the NFL to this point, with both the Jaguars and the Lions, before coming to Dallas. During the vast majority of that time, he was a weak side linebacker rather than a Mike.
“I played the Will basically my whole career,” Durant said. “Before I got here, in Detroit, we played left and right so I played half-Sam, half-Will. And in Jacksonville I played Will for three years. It’s just getting back to it.”
It makes sense, then, that the Cowboys would experiment with Durant on the weak side during practice, while Rolando McClain continues to audition in the middle. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that the Cowboys took first-team reps in practice with McClain as the starting Mike linebacker and Durant as the starting Will – part of the ongoing effort to evaluate McClain after more than a year away from football.
“We’re balancing those things and trying to create an environment for him to somehow, someway be his best and show us what he can do,” Garrett said. “He’s done that over the last week or so and hopefully he can continue that trend.”
McClain’s starting capability continues to be a hot topic of conversation during this training camp, as the two-time retiree has flashed his ability during joint practices with the Raiders and during Saturday’s preseason loss to Baltimore. The issue might become even more magnified in the coming days, as DeVonte Holloman’s status after a neck injury is still under evaluation.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning that he’s excited about McClain’s potential, despite the history that follows the former No. 8 overall pick.
“I do think that we’ve got a chance to pull one out of our hat with McClain,” Jones said. “Are we looking for it? Yes. Do we wonder about him? Yes. By the same token, an old adage in this league is when somebody has once been a blue player, a blue, not just Cowboys blue, but blue in general, then look for him to be a good player again.”
If McClain does in fact assume the starting spot in the middle, pushing Durant to Will, it leaves plenty of question about Bruce Carter. The fourth-year veteran, who has been written in as the weak side starter since the Cowboys switched to a 4-3 scheme, would be benched in that role – unless he took over for Kyle Wilber on the strong side.
Garrett responded to that speculation by reiterating the need for competition at all three positions – perhaps the most unsettled unit remaining on the roster.
“At the end of it, we’re going to try and pick out the best three linebackers and get them in the spot that suits them and hopefully we can find our best unit,” he said. “We’ll do that in the base and try to do the same in the nickel choosing our best two nickel linebackers.”