NY Giants @ Dallas Cowboys NFL Week 1 Odds & Betting PickWe already knew that Dallas was going to be without two of its top pass-rushers in Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence. Both were suspended four games each earlier this year for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Lawrence, who had offseason back surgery, played the best football of his career in the second half of last season. The coaches credited him with 56 tackles, 31 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss as he became a disruptive force. He led the team with eight sacks overall.
Gregory was suspended for the same reason. At last year’s NFL scouting combine, Gregory tested positive for marijuana, which put him in the league’s drug program. Considered a first-round prospect out of Nebraska, he fell to the second round, where the Cowboys selected him with the 60th overall pick. Gregory played in 12 games as a rookie and did not record a sack. He suffered a high-ankle sprain in the season opener against the Giants and missed the next four games. He was credited with 11 tackles and 16 quarterback pressures to go along with one tackle for loss. Much more was expected this season.
And on Thursday, the Cowboys learned that linebacker Rolando McClain was suspended for 10 games for violating the substance abuse policy. McClain was suspended the first four games of last season for violating the policy. In 11 games in 2015, he was credited with 97 tackles, two sacks, nine tackles for loss, 10 pressures, one interception and three pass breakups. The Cowboys acquired McClain in a trade from the Ravens on July 1, 2014, after losing Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury. In 12 games in 2014, McClain was credited by the coaches with 108 tackles and went to the Pro Bowl.
It’s possible that the Cowboys now release McClain. In March, McClain was re-signed to a one-year deal worth up to $5 million, but he could forfeit his $750,000 signing bonus if Dallas keeps him. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could move Anthony Hitchens to middle linebacker, with Kyle Wilber or Andrew Gachkar entering the starting lineup. The team drafted linebacker Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame in the second round of this year’s draft, but he won’t play in 2016 due to a knee injury suffered in his final college game.
On top of all that listed above, top linebacker Sean Lee is coming off knee surgery and third-round pick Maliek Collins broke his foot during offseason workouts. Restricted free agent signing Benson Mayowa, a defensive end, recently underwent knee surgery.