The Dallas Cowboys thought they were going to be in great spot going into the 2016 NFL season. Star quarterback Tony Romo would be back, stud wide receiver Dez Bryant should return to full strength and many see rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott as the key to their offense.
Unfortunately, that positive thinking didn’t take into account a middling defense.
— NFL (@NFL) June 30, 2016
That middling defense may have just taken a massive hit, too, as star lineback Rolando McClain was recently handed a major suspension by the league office. Per reports, the NFL has banned McClain for the first 10 games of the 2016 season due to violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy.
McClain is even more hot water with Dallas, as he had already upset the coaching staff for not taking voluntary workouts seriously. It’s also a troubling development since McClain has been so good the past two years, especially after having off field trouble in Oakland.
There’s no denying that McClain wasn’t a superstar for Dallas, but he’s been a constant force, recording 80+ tackles in each of the last two seasons and chipping in with three total interceptions and three total sacks. McClain has filled his role well and has remained a key part of an improving defense.
Not the Only Loss
That defense looks to be in a tough spot to get 2016 going, however, as McClain joins a growing list of quality Dallas defenders that will miss some serious field time. The team already let star defensive end Greg Hardy walk following the regular season, and then soon after learned that fellow pass rushers Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence would miss the start of the new seasons due to suspensions.
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) July 1, 2016
McClain is the latest big hit for a Dallas team that seemed to be doing all of the right things to get back to being an elite club offensively, but is now splitting at the seams on the defensive side of the ball.
The bigger question here is if the Cowboys decide that enough is enough with McClain, who is just 26 years old and still has untapped upside, but can’t seem to remain focused and stay out of trouble. Dallas does have a quality linebacker to pair with Sean Lee, but not having him for 10 games could have them looking for outside answers.
Super Bowl Odds Hit
The loss of McClain could end up being catastrophic, as Dallas was already a weak Super Bowl bet with +1800 odds, per Bovada. Those aren’t terrible odds, but they aren’t the odds of a true title contender. Dallas remains in a weak NFC East and will have Romo, Bryant and Elliott together, giving them a nasty offensive trio.
However, with McClain adding yet another big suspension to the table, Dallas is likely to continue to struggle on defense. With all of the pressure on the offense to perform, the Cowboys could be in for another disastrous season. Even if they do manage to keep their heads above water, a Super Bowl is looking more and more like a poor bet.