On Friday, Peter King of SI.com recounted how Morris Claiborne ended up being drafted by the Cowboys. If you haven't read King's article, you should follow this link and read it, as it offers some good insight into how the Cowboys found themselves in a position to trade up and how Claiborne was the only player they had even considered trading up for.
In his Monday Morning QB column, King picks up the Claiborne story once more, this time remarking on how the Cowboys have rebuilt their secondary in one offseason.
Claiborne, the best corner in the draft, who no one thought had a prayer of getting beyond the fifth pick in the draft, was there for the Cowboys to pluck at six after trading. Dallas missed the playoffs last year because it couldn't play pass defense in the fourth quarter of the biggest games. And now the Cowboys have rebuilt the secondary (Claiborne, Brandon Carr) in one offseason. Claiborne was shaking with emotion talking about how his son now "is never going to want for anything. Now I'm a Cowboy ... It's ... just ...
"Amazing. Amazing. Following in the footsteps of Deion Sanders. Amazing.''
After the break we look at how that rebuilt secondary compares to last year's version and more importantly, how the Cowboys dropped the average age in the secondary by more than three years.
It obviously doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that your secondary will look different if you bring in two new starters via free agency and add a number one draft pick on top. But those moves have an additional effect in that they make the secondary significantly younger, and not just because the Cowboys released Terence Newman, who would have been 34 on the first regular season game of the 2012 season. Other members of the 2011 secondary who won't be returning in 2012 are Abram Elam (30 on opening day), Frank Walker (31) and probably also Alan Ball (27).
They'll be replaced by Morris Claiborne (22), Brodney Pool (28), Brandon Carr (26) and either Mario Butler (23) or an as yet unnamed player. All these moves are summarized in the table below in which I've ranked the 2011 secondary by each player's number of snaps. Also shown is each player's age on opening day 2012.
|2011 Secondary||2012 Secondary|
|Free Safety||1,050||Abram Elam||30.9||Brodney Pool||28.3|
|Strong Safety||1,004||Gerald Sensabaugh||29.2||Gerald Sensabaugh||29.2|
|LCB||829||Terence Newman||34.0||Morris Claiborne||22.6|
|SCB||679||Orlando Scandrick||25.6||Orlando Scandrick||25.6|
|RCB||608||Mike Jenkins||27.5||Brandon Carr||26.3|
|CB 4||498||Alan Ball||27.4||Mike Jenkins||27.5|
|CB 5||331||Frank Walker||31.1||Mario Butler||23.9|
Average age of the 2011 secondary on 5/9/2012: 29 years, 4 months, 17 days
Average age of the 2012 secondary on 5/9/2012: 26 years, 2 months, 6 days
On opening day 2011, the Cowboys had shaved off three and a half years off of the age of the O-line, going from an average starting age of 29.3 for the 2010 unit to an average age of 25.7 for the 2011 unit. Not everything went as smoothly with that transition as the Cowboys hoped, but that is likely to be a different story for the secondary.
The interesting thing here is that while the age of the O-line had been a continuing and persistent narrative associated with the Cowboys by fans and media alike, the Cowboys' aging secondary had received little attention so far. But by shaving off three years from the average age of the unit, the Cowboys have orchestrated a youth movement that ensures that their secondary could be set up for years to come.