Crack Hits Episode 7: The Cornerback Edition


Most people think Jerry Jones isn't a smart general manager. What most people don't realize is that Jerry plays chess, not checkers. Back at the Senior Bowl, Jerry confessed his love for our cornerbacks. Instead of throwing them under the bus, he gave them a vote of confidence saying that 2010 was an off year for the group. He did display his concern over their lack of play, but mentioned he was confident of the talent in the group. Then the media flipped his comments into a draft tactic, that the Cowboys in deed were not targeting a cornerback this draft. People will mention that this is a "smokescreen" tactic, and it could be.

Trust me, Jerry will always value a cornerback in the draft. Every draft don't you hear about how "The Cowboys are hoping a cornerback falls to them in the draft"? I can say from my draft experience, that the past three or four NFL Drafts Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay brought that scenario up during the broadcast of the draft on television. My take on the matter is that the Cowboys scouts and front office value cornerbacks highly. They always seem to have a high grade on the premier cornerbacks of that draft. This is one area our scouting department and front office actually does a great job.

I was a huge Mike Jenkins fan coming into the 2008 NFL Draft. I rated him higher than Talib Aqib, who was selected 20th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I actually wanted us to select Brandon Flowers over Mike Jenkins though. Now the reason I wanted us to draft Brandon Flowers was that he was more of a playmaker. I felt Mike Jenkins is more of a lockdown corner that doesn't generate a bunch of turnovers. That doesn't mean I think Jenkins is less talented, I just feel their two different type of cornerbacks. I remember fans not being pleased with the Mike Jenkins pick, and I actually also would have preferred Kenny Phillips because we need a safety going into every draft. When we selected Mike Jenkins, I thought we got a steal. Even though I wanted Brandon Flowers over him, we still got one of the best cornerbacks in the draft #25th overall.

His rookie season didn't pan out like I expected. Jenkins was underneath the shadow of Anthony Henry and Pacman Jones. Then Jenkins got plowed over by Derrick Ward of the New York Giants, a play that stuck with fans. The funny part is, most think it was Brandon Jacobs that plowed him over. Actually it happened to be Derrick Ward folks. What fans also forget is Mike Jenkins taking a pick six to the house. Jenkins has playmaking ability, and I thought if we give this kid a chance to start he will become a great cornerback.

So the 2009 training camp rolls around and there is a battle for the starting spot between fellow 2008 draft pick Orlando Scandrick. Mike Jenkins absolutely fed off the competition, I believe if you keep him motivated and hungry that Jenkins will rise to the top of his game. Mike Jenkins needs to be pushed by the coaching staff, not hyped up by them. Jenkins won the starting spot after Scandrick got smoked like pot in the home opener against the Giants. Jenkins went on to have a five interception Pro Bowl campaign. In my opinion, no other cornerback played at his level besides Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson. In that season Jenkins was a physical player besides from being a playmaking ball hawk. He was willing to tackle and laid out some physical jaw dropping hits. So going into the 2010 season, I was expecting Jenkins to take his game to yet another level.

Then things got......well, strange. In the off-season a reporter asked Mike Jenkins about being hungry and wanting to reach another Pro Bowl selection. He gave some odd and bizarre statements. Jenkins basically said he was good where he was at, and didn't have to be hungry and work as hard as he did the season before. Now I understand having swagger and being confident, but his comments were beyond that. Part of being a great cornerback in my eyes is having the confidence and swagger that gives you a mental edge. Cornerbacks get beat every game, and they have to have a short memory. Jenkins fed of the confidence he got after winning the starting cornerback job and it kept growing over the course of a great 2009 season. Then I heard this interview and I knew something wasn't right. The whole coaching staff and Jerry Jones were hyping him up like the next Deion Sanders. Jenkins bought into that garbage and became lazy. Straight up guys, he got lazy and wasn't motivated. I feel this played into a big part of his 2010 collapse from greatness.

Jenkins is a extremely talented athlete. Most are writing him off after one of the worst seasons I have ever seen from a cornerback of his caliber, but I will not write him off just yet. If Mike Jenkins comes back to us motivated and willing, expect to see the guy we all witnessed in 2009. Jenkins has amazing route running ability, I watched a lot of tape on him from 2009 and he was running the routes just as good as the wide receiver was. He also has the ability to go up and make a play for the ball. For a guy 5-10, he can jump. He also has some really good hands for a cornerback. Really Alan Ball played a part in the fall off. Ball routinely blew assignments, didn't call out coverage's for Jenkins and even ran into Jenkins by my count at least six times when Jenkins was about to make a play on the football. Jenkins is a extremely talented man to man coverage corner. I thought he was playing better late into the season in the zone coverage schemes Paul Pasqualoni was running. He was allowed to diagnose the play and react to the play. That allowed him more freedom and one example of that was the Sean Lee interception during the Colts game. He read the play, and jumped the route. He deflected the ball right into Sean Lee.

Mike Jenkins could easily not get back into rhythm and become a first round bust. But with all the talent this kid has, I just don't see it. I really believe that he is a very skilled cornerback, who just had a horrible attitude and approach going into the season. I expect a huge comeback season for Mike Jenkins. It was basically what people call the "sophomore slump", and yes I understand 2010 was his third season, but it was his second season starting so that's where I get the sophomore part from. With the right attitude and the right coaching, Jenkins can be a star in the NFL. He had great technique in his Pro Bowl season, but it got sloppy last year. He also became less physical and quit on a bunch of plays. The odd part is that Jenkins is a physical corner. Watch his college highlights and some from 2009, he is a willing and physical tackler. But when you've been beaten up so badly like Jenkins was, sometimes players quit. I saw Jenkins get kicked while he was down all season, and for the most part he came back trying. But the tackle he quit on versus Green Bay was pitiful. I also believe he didn't respect Wade Phillips, Wade couldn't get through to this kid. When Jason Garrett took over, Jenkins responded with extremely better play. He forced a fumble one game, and was popping his head in every opportunity he could. I expect a bounce back season from Mike Jenkins, because he is just too talented to be that bad again. With a real coaching staff in place, and a total facelift to the defensive system with Rob Ryan, Jenkins will thrive. Its just my opinion and Jenkins could easily suck again, but if he does that puts us in a tough position.

Orlando Scandrick I owe an apology. I trashed him all season long and even dedicated a fan post to how bad he was, Jacques Reeves bad. I called him the next Jacques Reeves, because he was getting beaten so easily. Now I thought Scandrick was one hell of a find in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He was undersized coming out of Boise State, but he was physical and had that swagger to him I love in my players. He easily is one of the best cornerbacks to come out of his draft class. He had a really productive rookie season and carried that over into a productive 2009 season. In 2009 he did have his moments though, and I thought next year he would elevate his game to the next level.

Instead Scandrick took a steps backward. He was getting beat so easily all over the field, that it became hard to watch him play. He became so passive, it was like he wanted the wide receiver to make the catch and then tackle him within the next five yards. Opposing teams took shots all game long on Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins because it became just too easy for them not to. I had enough of Scandrick and his crappy play, and I began to bash a player I loved just a season ago. Its funny how when the chips are down, you turn on players you love.

Then Jerry Jones finally fired Wade Phillips, easily one of the best moments of 2010. When coach Paul Pasqualoni and Garrett took over, immediate changes were put into place. In the zone coverage scheme, Scandrick began to look like the player I knew. He was making plays on the ball and not letting up the easy receptions anymore. He had a new found confidence that elevated his game, even though there were some mistakes he made along the way. But he shrugged them off and kept fighting. I saw him come out of nowhere on the other side of the field to run down DeSean Jackson, not an easy task because of the speed Jackson possesses. He didn't make the tackle, but the effort was there and you could tell Scandrick was a fighter and not a quitter. It also displayed the blazing speed of Scandrick, something I don't think the fans actually know about. In the Colts game he might have had his best game of his career, taking a pick six to the house. Scandrick also displayed his pass rushing ability, he can really hit the quarterback and come blazing off that line.

I rediscovered my affection for Orlando Scandrick in the later parts of the season. He is a very young and talented player. What I really love about him is that he is so physical and really jacks guys up that are twice his size. I expect a HUGE season from Orlando Scandrick because of Rob Ryan coming to take over this defense. I really see Rob Ryan using Scandrick all over the field and also using him as a pass rusher. If Scandrick takes the next step to his game, then watch out for him. I really believe he is going to be a great player for us if he continues to take the right path. He definitely will be one of Rob Ryan's tools next season.

Bryan McCann was one of my pet cats heading into last years training camp. With 4.3 speed, the kid has amazing athletic ability. At SMU, he was extremely productive in his college career. He played cornerback and safety, but also was a great kick returner. Why the great Wade Phillips released McCann and only kept three cornerbacks on the roster was mind boggling to say the least. We got very lucky to sign him after the Ravens released him, another questionable move by the Baltimore Ravens in my opinion due to their lack of quality cornerbacks. McCann had an amazing run at the end of the 2010 season. He took a pick six inside the end zone all the way back for a 101 yard touchdown and that was easily one of the biggest plays of the season and also gave us a win in New York against the Giants. Then the kid takes a punt to the house versus the Detroit Lions, a play that sealed the win. He is a playmaker and has blazing speed, a combo that is sought upon by every NFL team.

Personally I would of locked him up long term, like a 3-4 year contract with incentives. He is going to be a great player in the NFL, and I want him here in Dallas where he belongs. This is a Miles Austin and Tony Romo like find in the undrafted free agent market. We have discovered another gem in McCann, who was undrafted. Now he may not be a starting cornerback because of his size, but in the NFL you need at least three cornerbacks you can rely on to make plays. Look around the league and you will notice a more air based attack. Green Bay has four wide receivers that gave the Pittsburgh Steelers defense fits during the recent Super Bowl. I expect big things from Bryan McCann and he will be a part of our future on defense.

Terence Newman had a intriguing season. Early on he was the productive and solid cornerback we always expect out of him. Along the way I believe injuries took a toll on the 32 year old Newman. He was straight getting smoked, straight outran by inferior players. Newman has always been a speed cornerback. What makes him great is his intelligence and speed. When players who are speed orientated start to lose a step, then its usually the beginning of the end for them. Its sad to see a great Cowboy begin his downward slope into the end of his career.

Newman had huge expectations as the 5th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. He never became the superstar cornerback people wanted, but Newman was always vastly underrated in my opinion. I believe Newman is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but will always be hated on. He played for so many bad Cowboys teams and that really is a shame. Say Newman was drafted in 2006, his career would have been totally different. Newman will be 33 next season. If he is indeed losing his speed, expect a major falloff in his play next season. He relies on his speed and athleticism to make plays on the field, if he loses a step it could be fatal for him in the secondary. I love this guy and I hope he was just beat up so bad late in the season last year, that it led to his mediocre play. If Newman comes back and displays that he still has the speed we know, than Newman can easily play at a high level the next two seasons.

This leads into the draft portion of Crack Hits. I believe we need to secure a future replacement for Terence Newman, the guy is going to be 33 and you need to be prepared for his departure. We got Mike Jenkins, who I believe is going to be our starting cornerback for a long time. But still that doesn't warrant he will be successful. Jenkins could bust out and leave us with another major hole at cornerback. Orlando Scandrick might be able to play one of the starting cornerback positions, but I feel more comfortable using him in the slot and lining him up all over the secondary. Bryan McCann is an undrafted free agent that has some tremendous upside, but he is a unproven commodity at cornerback as well.

In this draft, we should come out with a cornerback by the end of the third or fourth round at the latest, but I would feel more comfortable getting one a lot earlier. Prince Amukamara may actually fall to us when we go on the clock 9th overall, but I am starting to feel he is more like Malcom Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints and should be moved to safety. If Amukamara is there when we pick, we should probably take him because he would be an amazing asset for us in the secondary. I am sure that Rob Ryan would love to have a guy like Prince in his secondary.

But the cornerback who gets the least amount of hype and buzz is Brandon Harris from Miami. Now I may be a little partial to Harris because of my allegiance to the University of Miami, but this kid is an amazing talent. He actually reminds me of Joe Haden, who had a great rookie season after there were question marks about him during the draft last year. But I also heard some Darrelle Revis comparisons, due to the similarities in size and technique. Harris I believe will become a lockdown cornerback in the NFL. If he stayed in school he easily would have been the first cornerback selected in next years draft. That could have been top 5-8 status for him. Teams will not take him with the first eight picks because his game is still growing, but that doesn't mean Harris will not be effective in his rookie season. I believe Harris could come right into Houston or Detroit and be a starting cornerback that makes a lot of big plays.

There was a rumor in January about the Cowboys interest in Brandon Harris. If the Cowboys missed out on Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, then the rumor stated we would be thrilled to get a shot to select Brandon Harris. Now this was just a rumor from draftnik, but you never know because the scouts from teams do talk a lot. I would love for us to get Brandon Harris with our first pick. Now I understand a lot of you wouldn't condone taking Brandon Harris 9th overall, but a lot of you would take Prince or Peterson there right? I think Brandon Harris is vastly underrated compared to both of them, Harris was a lockdown cornerback for Miami the last two seasons and teams barely threw his way this season because of that. Sure defensive line or offensive line makes sense for us 9th overall, I am not debating that because I have voiced my strong opinion of taking a Cameron Jordan or Tyron Smith with our first pick. I just feel that Brandon Harris has star potential, how would you guys feel about drafting Joe Haden with the 9th pick this year? Because Harris could end up being better than Joe Haden, that's how good Harris really is.

Brandon Harris was the son of a high school football coach in Florida. When your getting the son of a football coach, you know your getting a smart and well behaved football player. Harris was raised to play football and he loves the game. He is very passionate and is a natural leader. We need passionate leaders on our team and I would love to have one in my secondary. Right now, we have a lot of followers in our secondary and we need leaders to come in and lead those players in the right direction. I see Newman as a leader, but I don't see any other player in the secondary that is a leader. Even though Harris is young, he has a strong personality that would fit our team perfectly.

After the intangibles, this kid is a premier athlete. At 5-11 195 pounds, he has similar size to Darrelle Revis. His technique is lockdown cornerback material. I believe he is fast enough to run a low 4.4 40, and if he tests out well at the combine he could push himself up the draft board. Fortunately for us, I don't see a team before us selecting Harris that high because they have other needs and other players will be available. Now the Titans could select Brandon Harris 8th overall, but they need a quarterback honestly.

Harris is Scouts Inc's 4th rated cornerback. This is funny to me because about a month ago they had him on their top 32 players in the draft. But for some reason Jimmy Smith of Colorado has jumped over Harris. To be honest, I have never seen Jimmy Smith play a game. I have watched some youtube highlights and he seems like a great player that has great size, but I don't see how he is better than Brandon Harris. Basically their scouting report says that Brandon Harris is a very good athlete. He has top end speed and the athleticism to be a great cornerback in the NFL. His coverage skills are top notch and can play zone coverage. They also say he has great hands and can extend and make a interception. Very fluid in his back pedal, though he does get a bit high. Has the fluid hips a great cornerback needs. Has the size to be physical and is a physical dependable tackler.

Wes Bunting is one draft guru that value very highly. He has Harris rated as his 10th overall prospect and #2 cornerback in the draft. He basically describes the same thing as Scouts Inc. A very good athlete with great coverage skills, that is physical in run support. He says Harris needs to polish up his footwork, but has all the makings to develop into a great starting cornerback in the NFL.

I compare him to Joe Haden and Darrelle Revis. They are all 5-11 and around 190-200 pounds. They have the similar athleticism and physicality. Personally if I can get a Joe Haden with the 9th overall pick then I am doing it. Darrelle Revis was taken 14th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Joe Haden was drafted 7th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. 9th overall seems like a good spot to take Brandon Harris, considering where Revis and Haden were selected. I feel that if we take Harris 9th overall, we got a starting cornerback for the next ten years and a really good one on top of that. Cornerbacks with lockdown capability are rare to find, and they are valued highly in drafts. I believe Harris is what scouts call a "blue chip" prospect. Its amusing because nobody seems to talk about this guy around the draft networks. He is a blue chip prospect, and I hope the Cowboys think about taking him 9th overall.

Whatever direction we decide to go in the first round, at least I will happy knowing we got a really good player despite whatever need we may have. The 9th overall pick gives us options, and Brandon Harris is one more option on a growing list. If we take Brandon Harris I will be thrilled and filled with joy. Brandon Harris is one player that is growing on me every day. I have wanted a lockdown corner for the longest time, maybe this time I get one.

Thank you for reading Crack Hits, I hope you enjoyed. Please feel free to discuss in the comment section.


Brandon Harris vs. Georgia Tech ('09) (via AloAloysius)


Brandon Harris Highlights (CB, Miami) (via thereaper)

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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