At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of things that the Dallas Cowboys needed to have happen for this to be a successful season. One thing that several people felt was necessary was for some underperforming players to step up and start living up to the team's expectations. The two most common names brought up were Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter.
Carter took some major steps in that direction against the St. Louis Rams, where he was credited with 12 tackles plus his pick six. That gives him 18 tackles on the season so far, good enough to lead the team. With the injuries to Rolando McClain and Justin Durant, Carter has been the one element of consistency in the linebacking corps, and he is starting to make plays as well as stay healthy.
Claiborne, however, has not done much to inspire confidence. According to Pro Football Focus, his grade under their system has him tied as 91st out of 96 cornerbacks in the league. He has certainly been the weakest link in Dallas' secondary so far. The question now seems not to be what to do about him, because Sterling Moore looks to be a better option right now. The decision to be made is whether to go ahead and make the move.
The argument for doing so seems conclusive to some, such as Todd Archer at ESPN.
If Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wants to maintain credibility not only outside the locker room but also inside, then Morris Claiborne cannot play starter's snaps.
"It really doesn't matter where guys come from," Garrett said. "We'll evaluate them and see who can play best. We'll do that again this week and determine how we play guys all throughout our roster."
Moore has done well while playing only about a third as many snaps. PFF has him with a +3.6 grade on the season so far, compared to Claiborne's -6.6. If the team is really sincere about playing the best players, then it is an easy choice, right?
Apparently not. Nick Eatman at DallasCowboys.com argues that it would be inconsistent for the coaching staff to pull him now.
But for this game, I'm not taking him off the field. To me, that wouldn't make sense because you left him out there Sunday against the Rams. That's the game he struggled in and you had the opportunity to bench him then in favor of
Sterling Moore. But by not doing that, the door was left open for Claiborne to redeem himself, which he did in a major way with that game-clinching interception.
His confidence was already down, yet he found a way to come through when the defense and team needed him the most.
Does that one shining moment make up for all the crap that went before? Is that the first step in a turnaround for him?
It does look like Claiborne is going to get another chance to prove himself, at least if what Jerry Jones says is any indication.
"You can't deny his ability to play a ball," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. "He's got skills relative to playing the ball, helping make turnovers. ... He's just got too much skill out there to not continue persistently and diligently to get him to where he can work within the defense and make those kinds of plays for us.
"We're not giving up on him at all. Is he what we had hoped for at this point when we drafted him with the sixth pick, gave up a pick to go up to the sixth pick to get him? No. But he's going to be a good player."
Is that Jerry Jones expressing his own opinion or him basically parroting what his coaching staff is telling him? It is often hard to be sure, but most of the time, the things Jerry says in public are not that far off from what happens on the field. For the time being, Claiborne still seems to maintain his grip on the starting job.
That is almost certainly a mistake. With the other struggles the Cowboys are having defensively, most glaring being the lack of success getting to the passer, the team needs to be fielding the best players they have available. If Claiborne is not, which seems to be the general consensus, then he needs to take a seat and earn his way back.
Of course, that is just opinion, and has nothing to do with what the team will do. Since we are just talking opinions here, why don't you give us yours?
BREAKING NEWS: ESPN reports that Orlando Scandrick has been picked to start in Claiborne's place.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne skipped the Dallas Cowboys' walk-through practice and angrily left the club's Valley Ranch training facility Tuesday after being informed that Orlando Scandrick was replacing him in the starting lineup, multiple sources said.
This leaves the team with a big problem that it now has to address. And Claiborne has to decide if he thinks he is bigger than the team or not. (Hint, Mo. You most definitely are not.)