The Sports Xchange

Cowboys LB McClain surprising the skeptics

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain played so well Saturday against the Ravens that he will start getting first-team reps, coach Jason Garrett said Monday.

It was McClain's first game action since 2012 after sitting out all of last season. He joined the Cowboys just before the start of training camp and needed time to get in football shape. Against Baltimore, he led the Cowboys with six tackles and had a forced fumble.

"Rolando did a good job," 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 sideline 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."

McClain's emergence could mean bad news for weak-side linebacker Bruce Carter, who was a disappointment last year and has been less inspiring in camp. The Cowboys will look at McClain at middle linebacker and move middle linebacker Justin Durant to weak-side linebacker in place of Carter with Kyle Wilber remaining on the strong side.

"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."

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