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Opposing Views: Will The Cowboys Second Corner Be Mike Jenkins Or Morris Claiborne?

Brandon Carr (39) is the only Cowboys' corner
guaranteed to start.
Brandon Carr (39) is the only Cowboys' corner guaranteed to start.

In a recent Tim MacMahon blog post, the ESPN Dallas reporter contends that there will be no competition for the Cowboys second corner position. This is based on the following quote by Rob Ryan:

“Obviously, this guy’s a unique talent. We didn’t move up in the draft to get a guy that’s not going to play. We’ve got an outstanding guy here.”

Pardon me, but I don't see where Ryan ever said "Morris Claiborne will be a starting cornerback." And so, we've once again turned to the Opposing Views format in order to hash out this debate. Today, the participants will include myself (this time in Blue), arguing on behalf of Mike Jenkins, and, arguing for Morris Claiborne, who better than our resident collegiate talent expert, Archie Barberio.

Both of us get three turns each to present arguments that support our positions. You, the BTB community can weigh in on the debate in the comments section and also vote for the winning position.

After the break, our opposing views:
Will Mike Jenkins start over Morris Claiborne?

Point: Coty Saxman

Counterpoint: Archie Barberio

Jenkins is upset that he lost his job to Carr, not Claiborne.

Claiborne was the top defensive talent in the draft.

If you recall, last August the Dallas Cowboys inked Orlando Scandrick to a somewhat surprising 5-year contract extension. In mid-March, the Cowboys also inked Brandon Carr to a top-tier deal. Seeking his own new contract, Mike Jenkins hired agent Drew Rosenhaus. His request for an extension came at the end of March, well before the drafting of Morris Claiborne in mid-April.

What this indicates to me is that Mike Jenkins always wanted to extend with the Cowboys. Before they signed Carr, he was willing to wait things out, hoping to receive number one money from the Cowboys. Once they signed Carr, he felt that he was deserving of a similar contract - what first-round talent wouldn't expect to be paid as well as a fifth-rounder from another team? Mike Jenkins has been a Pro-Bowl player, and feels he should be paid accordingly.

Mike Jenkins isn't worried about losing the fight for the number two corner spot, he wants the number one spot. In his mind, Claiborne isn't competition - though he may rightfully fear the management's propensity for the "new toy" mentality.

Let me first say that while Mike Jenkins is a very talented player, he was never considered to be the best defensive player in his draft class, but Claiborne was. There was a reason Jenkins lasted until the 25th pick while Claiborne was selected 6th overall. Jenkins is a good athlete with good coverage skills, but he is not in the same class Claiborne is. Claiborne comes from the best conference in college football, and he is a premier talent.

From a pure football standpoint, I think Claiborne is superior to Jenkins in just about every single category. He is the better athlete and has the better coverage skills, generates turnovers and is a true ballhawk. Jenkins only has 8 interceptions in his career and has been wildly inconsistent in that area.

He wasn't that good in his rookie season, where he made a few "business decisions" and played matador defense. He was great in 2009, probably one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. In 2010 he had one of the worst seasons by a cornerback in recent memory, but he bounced back strongly in 2011 while battling through a variety of injuries.

You don't replace Pro-Bowl talent with a first-year corner.

Jenkins' demeanor this offseason has cost him his job.

Morris Claiborne was the 6th overall pick. He's also a cornerback. While you expect high draft picks to be successful, you really have to temper those expectations with a bit of reality.

We've seen a high-drafted cornerback. Just last year, Patrick Peterson came out of the very same LSU defense as Claiborne, and was taken 5th overall. We all know that he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but let's be realistic. He wasn't even in the top 50 of NFL cornerbacks. He made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist, and that doesn't say anything about what we should expect from Claiborne. Sure, Peterson got on SportsCenter by talking trash about Dez Bryant. So did Jim Schwartz, and I doubt it will get him to the hall of fame.

What does that tell you about the Morris Claiborne situation? Jenkins already wanted to get paid. He was worried about losing his pay grade, not his starting role (would he really expect to be paid and demoted?).

I don't expect Morris Claiborne to be much better than Patrick Peterson in his rookie season. Certainly, I won't expect him to have the same impact in the return game (or even be involved) but also, as a corner, I don't see him performing much better if pushed into a starting role. He'd be best brought along slowly, much like Dez Bryant, getting situational snaps at every position, allowing those ahead of him to stay fresher, but never getting in over his head.

Starting rookies is always an act of desparation. It happens because you have no established starter. The Colts moved Peyton Manning before drafting Andrew Luck. The Redskins will start Robert Griffin III because there is no one as capable on the roster. You start the player that has the most to offer right now. Worry about potential when you build your 53; worry about impact when you set your 22.

Jenkins has been digging himself a hole ever since he held out of Valley Ranch to receive medical treatment in his native Florida. Instead of getting the best medical coverage for his shoulder, he opted to alienate himself from the organization and pay for his own treatment.

The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to partner up with Jenkins, not to replace him. Now Jenkins probably felt slighted when the team moved up for Claiborne, but how could you blame them? The pass defense has been awful for the past two seasons and the Cowboys were optimizing their talent. If Jenkins wants to get mad about something, that's fine, he can be mad about Orlando Scandrick receiving a contract extension; I will give him that. But to be mad about the Cowboys moving up for a player labeled the best defensive player in the draft? That wouldn't offend me at all.

The Cowboys never came out and said that Claiborne was going to be the starter. Jenkins could have showed up and come in with the type of attitude that shows he wanted to battle for his job. Instead, he took an approach that bothers me deeply. From my view, it looks like Jenkins believes he is entitled to a new contract. I am sorry, but he hasn't earned big money yet. The way he responded in 2011 really earned a lot of respect from me, but the way he has handled the situation this offseason has completely turned me off.

Mike Jenkins is one of the two best corners on this team until proven otherwise. His business decisions off the field don't impact that.

The better player will play. That player is Claiborne.

Claiborne's arrival may have pushed Jenkins into skipping OTA's. He wants, and rightfully so, the Cowboys to show that they are committed to him long term. Realistically, they could afford to sign him for starter's pay so long as Claiborne remains in his rookie deal. If Claiborne holds out in the future, all bets are off, but, in the meantime, the Cowboys can afford to have two well-paid corners, another backup-paid corner, and one on a rookie deal.

As a recent case study, let's take a look at the infamous 2011 "dream team." They managed to squeeze two well-paid corners (and by well-paid, I mean better than two Brandon Carr deals) and an above-average salaried corner onto their roster. Despite adding two presumed premier talents in Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie (think Carr and Claiborne, although DRC has more NFL experience and speed than Claiborne), their best corner last season was the incumbent number one, Asante Samuel (Mike Jenkins, if you will). Is Mike Jenkins as good as Asante Samuel? Maybe not yet, and maybe not ever. But is Brandon Carr as good as Nnamdi Asomugha? You see, the situation parallels nicely, and in our case, the salaries could work out for the next several years.

There's also this theory that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Drew Rosenhaus is as savvy as any agent in sports. He's undoubtedly coached Mike Jenkins into how to approach this situation with the highest potential for success. If, after seeing all of their current DBs throughout OTAs, the coaching staff then sees Mike Jenkins show up and perform at the level he's proven capable of, they may realize how important he is to the secondary.

For our sake, I truly hope both parties can come to terms on a deal that keeps Jenkins in Dallas for the next 4 or 5 years. The kind of competition that that would bring to the team for the next several years is exactly what Jason Garrett is looking for at all positions, and the perfect environment in which to bring up the best corner prospect since Deion Sanders.

It's clear that the front office, probably Jerry Jones, really wants to keep Jenkins for the 2012 season. That is smart because you need depth at cornerback in today's NFL, but will Jenkins become a distraction during training camp? It will be interesting to see how the situation develops this summer.

Jenkins was the best cover cornerback on the Cowboys' roster until Carr and Claiborne arrived. There will be a competition between Jenkins and Claiborne this summer, but I believe in Claiborne just like I believed in Tyron Smith. I think that Claiborne has the edge right now and all he has to do is show up and play consistent football in order to win the job. Rookie cornerbacks don't always have success in their first season, but I just see Claiborne as an elite talent that will be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for a very long time.

Jason Garrett preaches the best player will play theory, but when it comes down to that will he stand behind it? I believe Garrett wants to play the best player, and in my opinion that player is Claiborne.

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