The Dallas Cowboys were searching for answers after cutting DeMarcus Ware and letting Jason Hatcher explore free agency. They needed new blood in the locker room, but their hands were tied due to salary cap trouble. The needed a bargain-bin talent ready to prove himself, and that’s exactly what Terrell McClain was. McClain came to the team at the perfect time, and he may prove to be more important than the Cowboys could have imagined.
McClain’s signing didn’t blow anybody away. In fact, I’m sure most people don’t even know who this guy is. He spent last season with the Houston Texans and was a rotational nose tackle. He will likely still play a rotational role with Dallas, but many believe he might already have a leg up on Nick Hayden.
McClain will be valuable nonetheless. He may be in the mix with fellow defensive tackles Ken Bishop, Ben Bass, Hayden and Amobi Okoye. In another scenario, he could start alongside Henry Melton and solidify the middle on the defensive line. Just because McClain hasn’t been a star up to this point doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a fine player. All these types of players need are opportunities just waiting for a coach to put them in the right positions.
Coach Rod Marinelli is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, and has a history of developing talent. Melton had his most productive season under Marinelli while with the Chicago Bears. Jason Hatcher and journeyman George Selvie flourished under Marinelli last season as they combined for 16.5 sacks. McClain is in the right spot to prove himself.
In the team’s OTAs, Jason Garrett has been impressed with McClain’s attitude. He can lead by example with that professionalism. Other players will up their efforts if they know they have outworked an intense player like McClain. That type of energy and work ethic is infectious in a locker room.
It’s exactly what Dallas needs. In a way, he can be the poster child for the defense this season. It’s a defense with unproven players and a lot of question marks, but the players are going to outwork the opponent on every single down and by the end of the game, they will remember who beat them.
If he translates those flashes and intensity into consistent production, the Cowboys may have found a steal in free agency. Nobody is anointing him as a Pro Bowl talent, but he is in the right spot with the right guidance to take the next step in his career. His work ethic and attitude are exactly what the Cowboys need.