Each Sunday I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. How much longer will Rolando McClain be in Dallas? I also have updates on Ron Leary and links to some of our best OTA stories of the week in this edition of First and 10.
1. I'll make a not-so-bold prediction — Rolando McClain won't be a Dallas Cowboy next season. McClain wasn't at OTAs this week, and not that he had to be, but it would have been nice. He was not in Dallas due to family concerns, according to head coach Jason Garrett. He's not obligated to be at Valley Ranch for OTAs. No player is obligated to show up at Valley Ranch until mandatory mini-camp in June. And if McClain has a family matter, then he should tend to that. Garrett said McClain should be back in Dallas next week.
But it's always something, isn't it? Last year it was the knee scope. The year before he was retired. He actually hasn't gone through a full offseason regimen without missing some practice time, mandatory or optional, since he arrived in Dallas. And maybe that's the sacrifice you have to accept for a player as undeniably talented as McClain. But I wonder if the Cowboys are just about done playing that price?
The Cowboys have significantly built up their depth at linebacker, investing in players like Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson and Andrew Gachkar. The Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith last month, and if his knee rehab goes the way they hope he’ll be ready to go next year and should have a line on a starting job. Some are high on Mark Nzeocha, the seventh-round pick who missed all of last season, along with undrafted free agent Deon King out of Norfolk State (myself being one of them).
McClain was a huge addition in 2014. He filled a gaping hole with Sean Lee out for the season. But like Lee, McClain is always fighting injuries and you're not likely to get 16 games a season out of him. Plus, you hear the concerns about his weight. The Cowboys have him listed at 259. Now, linebackers play at 259 in the NFL. But they don't usually play at that weight in a 4-3 scheme like defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's. He likes quicker linebackers, and while McClain certainly has speed, the added weight makes him more likely to break down. McClain might be better off in more of a 3-4 scheme, at least in the long term.
The Cowboys were smart to sign him for just one more year at $5 million. The flexibility gives them plenty of options down the road. And while he could be back in Dallas once again, the scenario that seems more likely is McClain finding himself on the open market once again in 2017, only this time the Cowboys won't be throwing him a life preserver.
2. Ron Leary wants a trade. The former starting left guard is sitting out organized team activities until the Cowboys meet his demand. I don't think Leary has much leverage here. But he did remove the Cowboys from his Twitter bio, the ultimate social media statement about who you're repping. But he's doing whatever he can to force the Cowboys' hand. http://www.scout.com/nfl/cowboys/story/1672618-a-cowboys-primer-for-trading-ron-leary
But, I explored the idea of trading Leary anyway. What exactly could the Cowboys reasonably get for him? I explore all of that in this premium piece by looking at trades involving offensive guards in the recent past to see if there's a trend that might provide a hint to Leary's value in a trade.
I think it's the opinion of most of us at CowboysHQ.com that we hope Leary gets a shot somewhere else. Stay tuned.
3. It's Memorial Day weekend and Greg Hardy is still without a home. That doesn't depress me one bit.
4. I made an appearance on Game on with Wess Moore earlier this week. Wess hosts Game On from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio Arkansas. We recorded this on Thursday and we started with a few minutes on the events at Baylor that day, including the firing of head coach Art Briles. Then we moved on to Cowboys OTAs, talking about which players missed that week's workouts, how the rookies are fitting in and how Tony Romo looks in practice. Give it a listen and give Wess' show a listen. You can catch it on foxsportsarkansas.com or on many of the streaming apps out there. It's the 21st Century. You don't have to live in Little Rock to listen in to his Emmy-award winning sports broadcaster.
5. CowboysHQ.com broke down all of the major, need-to-know stories from the first week of OTAs earlier this week. It's a great recap of the week from Jordan Ross, and if you don't want to waste time going to several different sites to get all of the Cowboys news of the week, then our OTA review is the place to go.
My favorite part? Dez Bryant trying oh so hard to be patient about getting back on the field. I mean honestly if there were an impatience contest between Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant who would win? Seriously, I have no clue. Anyone?
6. CowboysCast is getting in on the OTA action this week. Our Mike Fisher stopped by to talk with Bobby Belt about Ron Leary's decision to sit out OTAs and to try and force a trade. I mean, think about this — when was the last time you saw a guard make this much news in a week? RJ Ochoa from Inside the Star talks with Bobby about the Tony Romo debate — is Romo a Hall of Famer (right now I'd vote no)? Plus get an update on Romo's NFFC outing in L.A. in July.
7. Jordan Ross is bullish on these 2016 Dallas Cowboys. He's so bullish that earlier this week Ross published a piece titled, "Could the 2016 Cowboys be better than the 2014 Cowboys?" It's worth a read. Ross makes good points about the fact that the two coordinators — Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli — are entering their third seasons and that should leave to great continuity. The continued good health of Tony Romo's back is also a good thing entering this season. http://www.scout.com/nfl/cowboys/story/1672334-could-2016-cowboys-be-better-than-2014
Certainly the addition of Ezekiel Elliott at running back has the potential to help both sides of the ball. I do believe the Cowboys need to strike a balance in how they use him, especially early. Every rookie hits a wall and it usually comes in late November and early December, when players like Elliott typically get a month off between their last regular season game and their bowl game. That doesn't happen in the NFL. Mixing in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden judiciously will help the Cowboys minimize that wall.
If there's a point of concern it's the defense. Specifically for me it's the defensive line. Ross makes the point that the group the Cowboys have assembled is incredibly athletic, and that's true. But whether that translates into a better pass rush than a year ago remains to be seen. If that group rises up and gets to the quarterback that helps everyone. If they can't, then the Cowboys' ability to possess the ball and keep the defense off the field will only go so far.
8. It's our Tweet of the Week:
Lord knows I throw up the 'X' every time I spell gesellschaft without having to look it up.
9. This week's Great Moments in Headline Porn? " Rob Ryan doesn’t regret getting fired by the Cowboys. He regrets his lap band" from washingtonpost.com. Read the story. It's exactly the type of thing you would expect Rob Ryan to do.
10. It's nice when you can get someone like Stephen Jones to talk about more than just football. And he did that with a group of media earlier this week. The media conference was about AT&T Stadium hosting all of the Texas High School State Football Championships again in 2016 (thanks for not screwing that up this year, NFL). But Jones waxed nostalgic about his high school football playing days, the meaning of potentially seeing his son playing at AT&T Stadium one day and the potential for another Super Bowl or the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium.
Mike Fisher posted the transcript on our premium message board, and it's a great time to get a premium membership to CowboysHQ.com. It's $5.99 a month. I don't drink coffee, but you probably do, and you probably plunk that down every day at Starbuck's. Skip a day, have the house coffee and get everything you need to be a Cowboys fans. And here's what they sometimes don't tell you — a premium subscription to CowboysHQ.com gets on access to premium content for every team in the Scout.com Network. So if you're a Texas Longhorns and a Dallas Cowboys fan, it's an easy decision. Get one today.
Want to talk more about the Cowboys? Hit the CowboysHQ.com Boards or hit Postins up on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard and Mike Fisher at @FishSports.