Could Terence Newman have been playing injured?

Listening to Deion Sanders on the Ben and Skin show on 103.3 ESPN radio, Ben Rogers mentioned that he just played basketball with Terence Newman. According to Ben, Terence was as explosive an athlete as he has ever seen up close.

Afterwards, Rogers approached Newman and asked about his performance on the court. Newman responded that he was finally healthy.

This is interesting because earlier in the season, Rob Ryan reported that Newman was injured, but when the reporters at Valley Ranch approached Newman, he calmly denied that there was anything physically wrong.

Looking at the season, however, the theory that Newman was not about making excuses and really was playing injured seems to have some merit. Newman played poorly in the loss to Detroit, registering a negative score (-1.8) from Pro Football Focus (PFF). Considering that he was covering Calvin (Megatron) Johnson during portions of the game, a below average score is not surprising.

Other than that one game, Terence Newman did not register a negative score again until the tenth game of the season, when he played poorly in the second half against the Washington Redskins. Newman never received a positive score from the folks at PFF again.

In fact, going into the game against Washington, Terence Newman had a cumulative score of +5.0. That was the best grade any player in the secondary had on the Dallas Cowboys. Newman had a score of -14.1 through the last 7 games of the 2011 season. After a promising start, Newman finished 2011 with a -9.1 score from the graders at PFF.

If Newman was injured, it probably occurred against the Redskins in week 11 of the season. The injury would explain his collapse down the stretch. The fact that Ryan mentioned it would mean that the coaching staff knew about it.

Taking an in depth look at the performances Newman had during the season:

@ Philadelphia: With a flawed defensive game plan, Newman still managed a +1.0 grade at Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: The second time around, Newman managed but a -0.2 in Dallas.

Washington: Similarly, when the Redskins played at Dallas, Newman was solid, grading out with a +1.8.

@ Washington: In the game where Newman may have gotten injured, Terence only managed a score of -0.3.

In the game preceding the contest at Washington, Newman scored a +1.3 against the Buffalo Bills. Also keep in mind that Rob Ryan began rotating his cornerbacks more frequently around Thanksgiving. Could this have been Ryan looking for an alternative to an injured Newman, but finding out that neither Scandrick (season PFF grade of -5.6), nor Walker (season PFF grade of -5.1), nor Ball (season PFF grade of -5.5) could step up?

So the question remains, could Newman have been injured in Washington?

More importantly, does this change his status going into the 2012 season?

When healthy, Terence Newman has performed well the last three seasons. The key of course, is the health of Newman. Terence missed parts of the 2011 season, and played through injury in 2010. In 2009, Newman was a Pro Bowl alternate (alongside Mike Jenkins).

But spending $8 million on an oft injured cornerback may not be the best way for the Cowboys to proceed. As stated before, getting average performances form cornerbacks would be an upgrade ( over the performances put forth by the secondary after Thanksgiving.

Releasing Newman and obtaining a mid-level cornerback like Terrell Thomas (from the NY Giants) could improve the play of the secondary. That is only true, however, if Newman continues to struggle through injuries, or does not return to his previous level of play.

The cornerback position is the area of the team in most dire need of improvement. Keep in mind that Mike Jenkins, the best cornerback on the Cowboys in 2011, only posted a score that was slightly above average for the season. Every other unit on the defense has at least one member that plays at a relatively high level, and a handful of average performers. That is not the case at cornerback.

Given the dearth of talent at cornerback, is it worth keeping Newman but acquiring an average cornerback to fall back on when/if Terence gets injured?

What do you think?

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