Why Rolando McClain Will Make Dallas Cowboys' Final Roster

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIAugust 4, 2014

Rolando McClain has retired from the NFL twice since being selected No. 8 overall in the 2010 draft. More recently though, the former Raider has been turning heads at Dallas Cowboys training camp.

Due to his early impressions out in Oxnard, California, and Dallas' holes at linebacker, it's hard to see McClain missing the 53-man roster.

Baltimore traded McClain and a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft to Dallas on July 1 in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the same draft.

While he has only been with his new team a month, the Alabama product has already earned praise from his head coach.

With Sean Lee gone for the entire 2014 season, McClain took reps with the first-team defense during camp on Aug. 2. 

"It's easy to see why he was a top-10 pick in the draft coming out of school," Jason Garrett told ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer after practice that day. 

"You see a lot of really good traits both physically and otherwise," Garrett added about McClain to Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Archer also spoke to team executive vice president Stephen Jones, who explained McClain was one of his biggest surprises so far this camp.

The Cowboys haven't even played their first preseason game yet. Regardless though, it's safe to say this is the best McClain has looked on the gridiron since 2011.

In his sophomore season in Oakland, McClain tallied 11 passes defended, five sacks and a career-high 79 tackles. The veteran linebacker might be considered an NFL bust so far, but he's shown in the past he can be a solid starter.

With Lee gone, the Cowboys are in need of veteran players and leadership at the linebacker position. Bruce Carter is the obvious name to fit both roles.

Still, Dallas has to be hoping teammates McClain and Justin Durant can provide help both on the field and in the locker room. This defense has lost both leadership and significant talent this offseason with Lee's injury and the departures of Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware.

It's far too early to believe McClain will become a defensive leader considering he was retired just last season. What these early positive impressions do show is that McClain could become a valuable and inexpensive asset to a unit in need of improvement. 

For all of McClain's issues since coming out of Alabama, most of them have been tied to immaturity and off-the-field issues. As ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon noted in a recent article, McClain has all the tools a coach could ask for in a linebacker.

Considering the 25-year-old's instant impact in camp, it's possible he has matured and realized the NFL is where he wants to be.

If McClain can live up to a fraction of his potential, Dallas will have made a savvy move that brought in a serviceable backup. If he proves to be a breakout player like George Selvie was last season, the Cowboys will have turned a potential weak spot on defense into an asset. 

As long as McClain has himself as great a preseason as he has had in camp so far, his roster spot is locked up at the very least.

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