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Cowboys' Corners Can Excel In NFC East

Do the Cowboys now have the best corner corps in the NFL?
Do the Cowboys now have the best corner corps in the NFL?

I'll admit, it took awhile for me to compose myself after seeing that we had selected Morris Claiborne after trading up to the 6th overall pick. Although slightly concerned with the loss of our second round pick, there was something more prominent on my mind.

The Cowboys now have a potentially dominant secondary. I don't even want to get into discussions about whether or not we have the best secondary in the NFL. That's not really my concern. Rather, I would like to compare our secondary to the receivers it will face - namely, the lauded receiving corps (plural) of the NFC East.

First, a look at our current fantastic foursome:

Our corners Burn Rate DPR PD INT
Morris Claiborne -- -- 6 6
Brandon Carr 49.40% 61.7 15 4
Mike Jenkins 51.90% 88.5 5 1
Orlando Scandrick 69.40% 100.2 5 1

How do our corners fare when matched up with our foes' receivers? What should we expect from Claiborne? Find out after the jump...

Giants Catches Yards TDs
Hakeem Nicks 76 1192 7
Victor Cruz 82 1536 9
Ramses Barden 9 94 0
Domenik Hixon 4 50 1
Eagles Catches Yards TDs
DeSean Jackson 58 961 4
Jeremy Maclin 63 859 5
Jason Avant 52 679 1
Riley Cooper 16 315 1
Redskins Catches Yards TDs
Santana Moss 46 584 4
Jabar Gaffney 68 947 5
Pierre Garcon 70 947 6
Josh Morgan 15 220 1

In examining the rosters of our rivals, it was very difficult to identify exactly who was the intended third (in the case of the Giants) and fourth receivers. In all fairness, our receiver depth is also suspect. Unlike them, however, we have two physical press corners, two agile slot-capable cover-corners, and the slowest of them all is Morris Claiborne.

Claiborne ran a 4.47s 40 yard dash, Carr a 4.4, Jenkins a 4.38, and Scandrick a 4.32. Gone are the days when our safeties had to line up 30 yards deep - now, Rob Ryan can call an all-out blitz and trust his corners to keep in-step without breaking a sweat.

What I'm getting at is this: how many receivers will a team need to field in order to cause a mismatch for our corners? The thought of Riley Cooper, Domenik Hixon, or Josh Morgan lining up across from Orlando Scandrick, I'm happy to say, is much more appealing than seeing Mario Manningham on Alan Ball, or anyone on Frank Walker, or even Newman against slot receivers late last season.

How many teams can say their third corner is a 26-year-old former Pro Bowler and first round pick? How many teams can say their dime corner can take Wes Welker one-on-one and not be embarrassed?

Last year, the Eagles showed us how to assemble a disjointed, aging, overpriced cornerback corps. Now, we're showing them how to piece together four of the top 50 corners in the NFL, all 26 years old or younger. I can't stop smiling about this.

Now, many may caution against prematurely anointing Claiborne as a top corner. As many may be aware, Patrick Peterson was the only rookie to receive All-Pro recognitions last season. In recent history, the top corners selected have been nothing short of excellent, with two notable exceptions. Leodis McKelvin was drafted by the Bills. He's representative of a possible reach by a team known to reach in a cornerback-starved draft class. In 2009, New Orleans selected Malcolm Jenkins 14th overall. His Alan Ball-like speed caused him to promptly move to safety, and he's been left off the chart.

Top 15 Corners Burn Rate DPR PD INT
Patrick Peterson 59.30% 85.0 13 2
Joe Haden 49.40% 87.2 19 0
Leodis McKelvin 60.00% 107.2 8 1
Darrelle Revis 41.20% 45.6 21 4

Claiborne was described during the draft as Revis-like. In the Cowboys' opinion, he's the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders. With the exception of McKelvin (which I've conveniently rationalized away), the corners seem to all improve with experience. Patrick Peterson, in his rookie year, was approximately equal in skill to Mike Jenkins this past season, with a much, much higher (perceived) ceiling. Getting that type of production from Claiborne would give him a fighting chance to wrestle the second corner position away from Mike Jenkins.

Personally, I think that Claiborne, who scouts have indicated does not press particularly well, could ably man the slot (with Scandrick handling the dime), allowing Carr and Jenkins to disrupt the bigger receivers, and keeping our new, young, ballhawk closer to center field, where he can jump routes at will.

Get ready for 2013, fellow Cowboys fans. At this point, I'm not at all worried about that second round pick.

And Jerry, if you're reading this, please don't ruin this by trading Mike Jenkins.

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