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Game Of Inches: For Cowboys, CB and WR Height Could Be Difference Between Winning And Losing

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Morris Claiborne (24) and Brandon Carr (39) add extra height to the Cowboys secondary this year.
Morris Claiborne (24) and Brandon Carr (39) add extra height to the Cowboys secondary this year.

If you've ever watched Any Given Sunday - and seriously, which self-respecting football fan hasn't - you'll remember the quote by Coach Tony D'Amato (played by Al Pacino) below. Heck, you may even know it by heart:

"You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second."

"On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the %*^$#@ difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!"

- Any Given Sunday (1999)

An inch here, an inch there. That's all it takes. And when we think of that extra inch, we usually think of that extra little piece of real estate you have to cover on the football field to be successful. We don't usually think of that extra inch as an extra inch in height. But maybe we should.

As it stands today, the projected starting corners for the 2012 Cowboys will be Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Carr is listed as 6'0" and Claiborne is listed as 5'11". That's three extra inches over last year's combo of Mike Jenkins (5'10") and Terence Newman (5'10").

Height alone does not make a good football player, of course. But everything else being equal, an extra inch or two might make all the difference in a game of inches. After the break, we look at how the Cowboys' corners and wide receivers compare to the rest of the NFC East.

By bringing in Carr and Claiborne, the Cowboys boosted the height of their starting corners, but still only have the third-tallest starting corner duo in the NFC East: The Eagles have the tallest duo now that they've replaced Asante Samuel with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Giants remain at an even 6'0" while the Redskins' starting corners look positively diminutive.

2011 2012
Team POS Player Height Player Height
DAL LCB Newman 5' 10" Carr 6' 0"
RCB Jenkins 5' 10" Claiborne 5' 11"
NYG LCB Webster 6' 0" Webster 6' 0"
RCB Ross 6' 0" Thomas 6' 0"
PHI LCB Samuel 5' 10" Rodgers-Cromartie 6' 1"
RCB Asomugha 6' 2" Asomugha 6' 2"
WAS LCB Hall 5' 10" Hall 5' 10"
RCB Wilson 5' 09" Wilson 5' 09"

All of this may not seem like a lot, but having two teams in the division that have starting corners who each are 6'0" or taller should have Cowboys fans perking up. After all, the last time the Cowboys had two starting corners who were 6'0" or taller was in 1986 (Everson Walls & Ron Fellows).

For the wide receivers, the situation is a little different. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant both standing at 6'2", the Cowboys have the tallest starting wide receiver duo in the division.

2011 2012
Team POS Player Height Player Height
DAL WR Bryant 6' 2" Bryant 6' 2"
WR Austin 6' 2" Austin 6' 2"
NYG WR Manningham 6' 0" Cruz 6' 0"
WR Nicks 6' 0" Nicks 6' 0"
PHI WR Maclin 6' 0" Maclin 6' 0"
WR Jackson 5' 10" Jackson 5' 10"
WAS WR Moss 5' 10" Garcon 6' 0"
WR Gaffney 6' 2" Hankerson 6' 1"

This time, it's the Eagles duo that is the smallest, and the Giants fall behind the Redskins who have added vertical inches in the last year. For the Cowboys, the departure of 6'2" Laurent Robinson means they'll be looking for a No. 3 guy behind Austin and Bryant - or approach the position via committee.

From a height perspective, this is how the candidates break down:

Andre Holmes - 6'5"
Raymond "Speedway" Radway - 6'3"
Kevin Ogletree - 6'1"
Donavon Kemp - 6'1"

Danny Coale - 5'11"
Tim Benford - 5'11"
Dwayne Harris - 5'10"
Cole Beasley - 5'8"

Going purely by height and not by actual playmaking ability - which makes this a largely hypothetical assessment - and knowing the Cowboys' preference for tall wide receivers, I'd wager a guess that two of the receivers from the first group ( taller than 6'0") make the team, and only one from the smaller (below 6'0") group.

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Then again, you've repeatedly heard the phrase "plays faster than his 40-time" in reference to a player who appears to be faster in pads on the field than he is on the track. Perhaps there is an equivalent for wide receivers: "Plays taller than he looks". If that's the case, then all eight of the guys above will be competing for the three open roster spots.

After all, if a guy can consistently get open, like Danny Coale in college and Cole Beasley in OTAs, it doesn't really matter how tall they are. But the example of Calvin Johnson last season also showed that it can't hurt to have a guy who can out-vertical everybody else on jump balls in the endzone.

At the end of the day, the four starting corners and receivers for the 2012 Cowboys measure in at a combined 24'3". That's two inches more than the Eagles, three more than the Giants and seven inches more than the Redskins.

And when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the %*^$#@ difference between winning and losing!