ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' decision-makers aren't going to declare this publicly, but they desperately want Rolando McClain to win the starting job at middle linebacker.
They’re well aware of how much this defense needs a playmaker, particularly with Sean Lee sidelined for the season by a knee injury. They saw that kind of potential in McClain when scouting him at Alabama before the Oakland Raiders selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft.
The Cowboys caught some glimpses of that ability during McClain’s preseason debut Saturday night, the twice-retired 25-year-old’s first game action since November 2012.
“I liked what 55 did out there,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said without prompting. “He got some good snaps, more snaps than I thought he might get and he did real well. We knew and felt that he was good in coverage and he showed tonight that he drops back good, got a good feel for coverage out there.”
McClain made plays. He led the Cowboys with six tackles. He forced a fumble, although the Baltimore Ravens kept the ball because it bounced out of bounds. He batted down a pass to halt a drive.
In short, the 6-foot-4, 259-pound McClain looked like a linebacker who could help the Cowboys this season.
“Hard to assess it without watching the tape, but he definitely showed up a couple of times,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “There was a play right on our bench where he pulled the ball out, and he’s done an excellent job running to the ball, being physical as a tackler and then getting the ball out. He’s done that all throughout training cap.
“It was good to see that show up a little bit.”