The most demanding position to learn from college to the pros is quarterback, but the second most difficult can be cornerback. Notice I said "It can be." When a defensive coach has a scheme he likes, he will usually modify it to fit the personnel he has. If he has a lot of veterans he can throw a lot of things at them and not worry, but when he has a rookie he will scale it back a little until the rookie can get up to speed.
Eric Davis talked about the difficulties of being a rookie corner in this fine article..
"But excelling as a rookie cornerback is difficult, especially when thrust into a defense that requires corners to play a lot of man-to-man coverage, as the Jets do. Milliner, who missed most of last offseason because of injuries, was so behind that coach Rex Ryan benched him three times last year."
"Milliner’s struggles are typical for rookie cornerbacks. Since the NFL began its Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1967, just six corners have won it, including two since 1976: Kansas City’s Dale Carter (1992) and Oakland’s Charles Woodson (1998)."
You have to be able to learn all the nuances very fast and that can be difficult for guys that don't have a good Wonderlic score. Corners with a lower Wonderlic score will need much more time to come around, but Jones should be fine in this area scoring an impressive 33 on the test.
Again from Davis....
"The most complex scheme that you’re going to find in college, their entire playbook is going to be a watered-down version of a game-day game plan for a (NFL) team," said Davis, an analyst with NFL Network. "You’re going to come into a (NFL) game with 10, 12 defenses. That’s an entire playbook for most of these (college) teams."
In the NFL, coverage calls are often fluid. If a wide receiver goes in motion, a cornerback’s responsibility can immediately change from man-to-man coverage to zone, though it might still be man-to-man if the receiver motions to a certain spot, Davis said.
Defensive schemes shift based on offensive formations, so a corner must react fast."
If a defensive back is "thinking" then he can not be playing instinctively. Morris Claiborne was very instinctive in college but in the NFL you can tell that he was hesitating because he still had to try to consciously process the information instead of just reacting.
What the Cowboys would like to do is to have Byron Jones ease into a starting corner position as soon as possible. Once Mo is healthy, then they will slowly ease him back into the mix with the idea of which ever player is best suited to play that "single-safety high" position, would get that assignment and the other would play at corner. The Cowboys are very comfortable with Jones playing that free safety position since he has started two years there.
If Brandon Carr does not accept a pay cut, then we may see Orlando Scandrick take over on the left side to cover the z-receiver, but I think they would love to keep Carr there at least one more year and if he will take the pay cut, then they may want to keep him a few more years.
Since Scandrick is their best corner, he will be on the field the most, but the Cowboys hope that Jones, and Scandrick will be their top starting defensive backs and Carr will be their third starter. Jones may become the starter at free safety, but you don't make a guy your first pick and not play him as much as you can.
"The Cowboys could eventually move Jones to safety – where he started his first two years at Connecticut – because they still plan for veterans Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Mo Claiborne to be major contributors next season, team owner/GM Jerry Jones said Thursday night."Cowboys.com
"There’s no doubt he’ll get right on the field. The question is where, and in this league where it’s pretty clear everyone has to assume they need three corners and two safeties just as really full-time players, I think he’ll be in that mix."Bob Strum
For more on why the Cowboys were almost in the "need" mode to pick a corner in the first round, see my previous article on this.
The Cowboys still have work to do long-term on their secondary. You need tall and "fast" corners on the outside, but you need really "quick" ones on the inside. Guys with great short shuttle and 3-cone times. Guys that can cover the Wes Welkers and the Cole Beasleys.
So tall corners on the outside, and short (quick) guys, (Scandrick is 5-10), in the slot. As my esteemed FPW Rabblerousr pointed out to me, Tyler Patmon should be a great fit as the future slot guy, (he had a 3.80 3-cone score), we may want one more like him.
|1||Brandon Carr||Barry Church|
|2||Orlando Scandrick||J.J. Wilcox|
|3||Morris Claiborne||Jeff Heath|
|4||Byron Jones||Keeland Johnson|
|5||Tyler Patmon||Keith Smith|