We, Dallas Cowboys fans, tend to think we have a top-flight trio of cornerbacks. To succeed in this league, you really need three corners who you can rely on. The NFL loves to throw the ball and if you have weak corners you will get exposed quickly. Dallas spent in free agency and used a very high draft pick to fill 2/3rds of the corner trio, and rely on a lower-round draft pick for the other 1/3. Are they on the way to success with this combination, or have we over-estimated the abilities of this trio? I think we'll know for sure after this season.
Brandon Carr was brought in during free agency before the 2012 season. At that point, he was considered the best free agent corner on the market, along with Cortland Finnegan. The Cowboys paid big for him, a five-year deal worth $50.1 million.
Morris Claiborne was picked 6th overall in 2012 draft. He had high expectations placed on him; he was the player the Cowboys decided was the best defensive player in that draft. Many others agreed. But, cornerbacks in their rookie season tend to struggle.
Orlando Scandrick was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and has settled in nicely as the Cowboys nickel back who has filled in as a starter when injuries occur.
How did this trio do in 2012? Well, grading out cornerbacks is much harder than say QBs or RBs, but it is still done. For instance, Pro Football Focus had Scandrick at +0.3 and Carr at +0.1 for the year, putting them squarely in the middle of the pack (54th of out 113 and 56th out of 133, respectively). Caliborne brought up the rear at a -4.5 (83rd out of 113). Over at Advanced NFL stats both Carr and Claiborne get better ratings based on a couple of measuring sticks, generally anywhere from 30th to 50th. The point being, the Cowboys corners were rated as mediocre in 2012.
This year, in Monte Kiffin's new Tampa-2 scheme, they should get a chance to shine, if they're up to it. When you think of Tampa-2 defenses in the NFL today, almost immediately people think of the Chicago Bears. With Kiffin disciple Rod Marinelli coordinating the defense in Chicago in 2012, Bears corners Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings had phenomenal years. They are definitely in contention for best corner duo in the league. The other team that Kiffin wants the Cowboys defense to emulate is Seattle, who not coincidentally have the other highly-regarded cornerback duo in the league, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
In the Kiffin/Marinelli scheme, among the corner's biggest priorities are supporting the run from the outside and getting turnovers. These things will get you noticed. By the end of 2013, we should have a much clearer picture of this corners trio. Brandon Carr started to make a bigger impact over the last half of 2012 with three interceptions (one TD). Morris Claiborne should be a much better player with one year under his belt and by facing Dez Bryant in practice. Orlando Scandrick has generally been a steady nickel guy.
Of course, corners don't do it on their own. You need a good pass rush for your corners to truly succeed. Any corner left in coverage for too long will lose the battle. The Cowboys rushmen need to held up their end of the bargain.
So what do you think BTB? How will our trio fare in 2013?
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