IRVING, Texas - The ultimate goal for Rolando McClain when the Cowboys signed him back in July was to see if they could figure out a way for this ultra-talented player to live up to the potential that made him a first-round pick.
To get there, the idea was that he could potentially come in and start at middle linebacker.
As the Cowboys get ready for the season opener with the 49ers, it appears McClain will be doing just that.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was asked directly on Thursday if McClain would be first out of the box at middle linebacker when the defense takes the field.
"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."
While Marinelli is no different than any NFL coach who tries not to give away his game plan, he has no problems giving his opinions of McClain as a player and his expectations.
"I expect him to be really a heck of a linebacker for us," Marinelli said. "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."
The spot is only open because of Sean Lee's knee injury he sustained this summer that will keep him out all season. As the middle linebacker, Lee has been the team's signal caller on defense but those duties won't be handed over to McClain, or even rookie Anthony Hitchens if he gets reps inside.
Marinelli said Justin Durant would call the defense from his weak-side position
"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."
Another factor in the player who wears the headset from the coaches will be his involvement on the nickel defense. Durant is expected to be a three-down linebacker, which qualifies him making the majority of the calls.
"I'm willing to step up to the challenge," Durant said. "I'm glad they think highly of me to put me in a position to perform."