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Cowboys Draft 2009: (A Man) Down on the Corner

In the early stages of this off season’s free agent signing period, the Cowboys managed to rid themselves of an aging and declining Anthony Henry. While this move opened the door for Dallas’ young corners, it seems to have also left the Cowboys a man or two short on the corner. Free agency came and went, and the Cowboys did not go after any of the many very affordable, quality cornerbacks. Outside of waiting for the annual June 1st cuts, the Cowboys have really kind of committed themselves to drafting a corner or two.

The Cowboys currently have only five cornerbacks under contract:

Terence Newman (5-11/190)
Mike Jenkins (5-10/190)
Orlando Scandrick (5-10/192)
Alan Ball (6-1/186)
Michael Hawkins (6-1/188)

This is what we know: Terence Newman is one of the game’s best when healthy. However, after starting his first 64 NFL games, Newman has missed 9 games over the past two seasons, and been hobbled in no less than a half-dozen more. Health permitting, Newman will start the season as the Cowboys’ left cornerback.

The other side is anything but etched in stone. The right cornerback position will likely be decided by a training camp battle between second-year players Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick. Jenkins’ “light” seemed to flash rather intermittently, before reaching a more constant shine down the stretch. Jenkins’ size is attractive, and he seems to have a knack for breaking on the football. With a year under his belt, the Cowboys hope that a few of his 4 pass deflections will now turn into interceptions.

While Orlando Scandrick is definitely in play for the starting right corner position, his niche is most definitely in the slot. Scandrick is lighting quick and showed superb recognition skills for a rookie. Even if he wins the starting job on the right side, he will almost undoubtedly reassume his nickel responsibilities in passing situations.

Alan Ball is not a bad corner, but it is fair to say that the Cowboys can do better. If the Cowboys had to enter the season with Ball as the fourth corner they could probably live with it. However, in that scenario the team would be one injury away from having Ball playing some serious snaps. Michael Hawkins has spent most of his professional career in the Arena League, and his NFL stat sheet looks rather similar to yours or mine. Providing he makes the team, Courtney Brown can also play corner in a pinch.

Big corners are all the rage in the NFL, but think about some of the wide receivers in the NFC East for a second. Santana Moss, Antwaan Randel-El, Desean Jackson, Sinorice Moss, Steve Smith. None of these guys will ever be confused with Harold Carmichael, so don’t be shocked if Dallas is looking at some smaller, more nimble corners to keep up with all of the shifty receivers in the division. Secondly, the Cowboys don’t have a viable punt returner on the roster other than the recently fragile Newman. The Cowboys may be looking for a corner who can provide some solid defensive depth, and also run back a few punts.

Here are a few guys who may interest the Cowboys:

First Day Prospects:

- Darius Butler (U-Conn) is projected by most to go somewhere in the neighborhood of the Cowboys’ first selection. If Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins and Illinois’ Vontae Davis are considered to be the only elite corners in this years draft, then Butler may be the only second-tier guy the Cowboys could realistically land without moving up.

- The Cowboys will host Oregon’s Jarius Byrd for a pre-draft visit. But with his size (5-10/207) and questionable speed the ‘Boys may view him as a safety.

-D.J. Moore (Vanderbilt) is a heady and instinctive player. Once widely considered a sure-fire 1st rounder, a lot (probably too much) is being made of his 4.56 timed speed.

- Mike Mickens (Cincinnati) is just plain nasty. To say that Mickens is a willing tackler would be an understatement. Mickens also displays an ability to make plays on the ball. Something the Cowboys need desperately.

Mid-to-late rounders:

- The Cowboys have a pre-draft visit scheduled with Florida State’s Tony Carter. Carter stole the show at Florida State’s pro day (4.35 forty, 225 x 17 reps) but his size (5-8/179) is still a turnoff. Still, Carter is a tough dude with natural skills and is also a pretty good punt returner.

- The ‘Boys will also take a look at Iowa’s Bradley Fletcher. On tape, Fletcher appears to flip his hips pretty well, and seems to have adequate long speed.

-Miami’s Bruce Johnson would be the ultimate “flyer” pick. Johnson is small (5’9/170) and raw, but the former collegiate sprinter possesses rare speed and quickness. Johnson is also an experienced kick/punt returner.

The Cowboys are in pretty good shape as far as their top 3 corners are concerned, so it may be tough for Jerry Jones and company to justify going with a corner too early in this draft. Still, like at most other positions, if the talent is there the Cowboys will probably pull the trigger. Consider this as well: Terence Newman is only 30, and seems to have plenty of good years ahead of him. But considering T-New’s recent injury history, it is not a stretch to think that the team may be thinking proactively about a contingency plan.




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