Over the last couple of weeks, the Cowboys coaching staff - at least what's left of that staff - has been busy evaluating and grading their player personnel from the 2012 season. The coaches have spent a lot of time coaching and developing their players in practice, they have a good grasp of the potential of each player, and they've reviewed hours upon hours of game tape of each player.
And while we won't ever be privy to the exact grades and the exact conversations going on behind closed doors, both Jason Garrett and returning secondary coach Jerome Henderson talked about their evaluation of rookie CB Morris Claiborne last week.
Henderson thought Claiborne had a successful rookie year:
Anytime as a young guy you start 15 games in the NFL – he had the one game he missed with the concussion – you start 15 games and teams haven’t just exploited you, you had a pretty good, successful year. So I think it was successful from that standpoint that teams weren’t just able to line up and go after him and get him consistently.
He battled through that. He made some plays, gave up some plays. But I think he positioned himself where with a really good offseason of work, he’s going to be a really good corner for this team for a lot of years to come.
But not everything was unicorns and rainbows, according to Henderson, and there are several areas that Claiborne needs to improve this offseason:
He’s got to get stronger, number one. He’s got to get in the weight room. He’s already a thin, wiry-built guy, and not having the offseason because of his wrist, he didn’t have the whole offseason to lift and get stronger. And you saw that on tape, it showed up.
There were times where he was in a position to make a play but didn’t have quite the strength he needed at this level to get off a block or to make a play. And I think he’ll get better there with a full offseason with Coach Woicik in the weight room and those guys.
He’s also got to pick up his awareness a little bit: Understanding NFL football and how teams attack you; what they’re trying to do to you and looking at things pre-snap. But I think, again, that will come with time and experience and he had a great. Great year from a learning standpoint, but he’s still got a long way to go.
Jason Garrett focused his assessment on what he thought was a smooth transition from the college ranks to the NFL, and is quite optimistic about Claiborne's potential for the Cowboys.
We thought a lot of Mo coming out of school. And it just worked out that we were able to trade up for him and we thought that was the right thing to do for our football team. The secondary was a position of need for us last year, and we felt like signing Brandon Carr and then being able to draft Mo Claiborne really helped our football team a lot.
He played in a lot of big games at LSU. Obviously the SEC is as good a conference as there is in college football. He played a lot of big games against great competition and I felt like his jump to play that very challenging position as a rookie was really pretty smooth. He had some different games where he was challenged and it was difficult, but he kept battling. I think that goes to where he came from and the kind of person he is.
We think the sky is the limit for him and he’s only going to get better and better