His struggles this season are well documented, but Morris Claiborne still has the confidence of his coach, Jason Garrett. As was mentioned over at the mothership, Garrett still feels that he has a combination of cornerbacks that will be effective over the course of the season.
"If we thought otherwise, we would make that change, but what he needs to do is he just needs to play better. He needs to play with the right technique and he has to do it consistently over and over and over again." -Jason Garrett on Mo Claiborne
Garrett says that as the second-year corner gains experience and learns the techniques required of him in Monte Kiffin's defense, that Claiborne will begin to show the playing ability that made the Dallas Cowboys willing to trade up to secure his services during the 2012 NFL Draft. One key factor is the fact that Claiborne did not have the benefit of a full training camp to begin learning the skills required of a corner in a zone defense, but things will click for Claiborne as soon as those techniques are fully ingrained in the young player's mind.
"There’s so much teaching that goes on at every position, particularly that position," Garrett said. "He’s certainly capable of doing it. Again, I keep saying this, he flashes it, but just the maturity to be a consistent player play in and play out, that’s what the best players do. He hasn’t done that consistently enough within the game or from game to game."
Fellow corner Brandon Carr concurs with the coach's assessment. Carr stresses that defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson is putting a lot into teaching all the defensive backs, not just Claiborne, a totally new concept from what they have played in the past.
"You’ve got to learn a whole new thought process and terminology and technique and things like that," said Carr, who’s also learning the nuances of Monte Kiffin’s system. "It’s a bit of a learning curve, but he’s still fighting. Henderson is doing a good job of each and every day working us to get us to where it’s second nature on the field. In due time, this thing will start clicking and guys will be where they need to be on the field." - Brandon Carr
Unfortunately, learning his new role is not going to be a quick fix, the way some fans seem to think it should be.
The more important thing is that there is every reason to believe that Claiborne can still be the player we had hoped for.
"It’s just the consistency with his feet, with his hands, whether it’s press technique or off technique or playing the proper technique that we’re asking him to play," said head coach Jason Garrett. "It’s a challenging position. You’re out there on an island. Your best friend is your technique."
It all comes down to the teaching that goes on every day. It also is important to remember that, coming into the league, Claiborne was a prime target for Dallas because he was a good press-man cornerback. He is in an unfamiliar situation; LSU didn't play much zone coverage while Claiborne was a Tiger. Our friends at Draft Tek had this to say about his collegiate career prior to the 2012 draft:
- Little to no experience in zone coverage
Throw in the fact that a kid with little injury history has experienced medical problems that limited him in each of his two NFL preseasons and it is easier to comprehend why Pick-6 has fallen behind the class. Like everything else with Jason Garrett's team, it is a process. To reiterate the coach's statement, "He needs to play with the right technique and he has to do it consistently over and over and over again." Morris Claiborne is loaded with talent and once he gets the proper skills that he needs in Kiffin's scheme; his issues will work themselves out.