Linebacker Rolando McClain appears ready for more. In his first game action since 2012, he led the Cowboys with six tackles and forced a fumble against the Ravens. It has earned him first-team reps.
“Rolando did a good job,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He played more snaps for us. He did some really good things. He’s showing he’s a physical player. He’ll run to the ball. There was a play on our sidelines where he chased it down and knocked the ball out. We’ve seen a lot of that in practice. He has to play, too. He has to play in the system. There is some responsibility there for that Mike linebacker to communicate, and I think his communication was good at times. Other times it was not what we need it to be, particularly when you’re playing with a younger group. You’ve got to make sure everyone gets lined up. Some good things with him as well, but definitely some things we need to address. But he’s certainly warranting an opportunity to compete for one of those spots in there.”
The Cowboys want to see McClain in the middle, with Justin Durant, the starter in the middle since Sean Lee tore his anterior cruciate ligament in May, moving to the weakside.
“We started to do that a couple of weeks ago and then Rolando was out of practice a couple of days, so we will do that in practice this week,” Garrett said. “At the end of the day, we need to find our three best linebackers and our best combination of those guys to start for us in base, and then there are some roles in nickel as well. If guys demonstrate that they’re a better cover guy than base linebacker, maybe they’ll get their opportunities there. So we’ll continue to work the different looks and the different combinations and see what looks best.”
That would put Bruce Carter on the bench in the base defense. Carter, who was benched after the San Diego game last season, had a tackle and drew a holding penalty against the Ravens.
“I thought Bruce did fine,” Garrett said. “I didn’t like the holding call that he had. I thought that was a legit call. But he showed up a little bit in the game both in the run game and defending the pass. Good cover guy. He made another one of those third-down stops when they tried to throw that under route on the left-hand side.”