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Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 2015: Defensive Backs Could Be Sneaky Good In 2015

The Dallas Cowboys secondary just may finally be in position to make huge strides for this football team. With all the upgrades to the defensive line, perhaps this secondary can produce a Pro Bowler.

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The Cowboys' secondary has been in flux for some time now and it was pretty obvious why they have seen their share of struggles. Though we've heard so many times about the chicken-or-egg theory, there aren't too many teams that can argue against a better pass rush helping the secondary. The Seattle Seahawks are the only current team that can say their secondary carries their defense. However, Seattle still has some good pass rushers on their defensive line.

Dallas spent just about every resource they could think of to improve their pass rushing abilities this offseason. Anytime your sack leader from the year before is now a backup tackle and end, you've done something right. The Cowboys will rely on Pro Bowl pass rusher Greg Hardy to lead the way with second-year stud DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie Randy Gregory also in the mix. When you add breakout defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford to the lineup and finish the solid rotation with guys like Jeremy Mincey, Nick Hayden, Jack Crawford, Ryan Russell and Ben Gardner; it leaves a lot of room for the guys in the secondary to make plays.

The offseason opened up with questions all over the defense but one of the more unsettled parts was that of the secondary. Let's run through all the items on the corkboard for a stroll down memory lane.

Orlando Scandrick

Scandrick was a top 10 cornerback by PFF standards with a +10.9 overall rating. What he lacks in size, he certainly makes up for in ability. He's comfortable in both man and zone coverage with the amazing awareness and vision to read the quarterback. He's quite possibly the very best slot corner in the game but has upgraded his game immensely over the past few season. The coaches have played him at the left, right and slot position and have the comfort level to play him anywhere. He's even covered big tight ends like Jimmy Graham and has had success as a blitzer. In the offseason, Scandrick wanted his pay to reflect his ability. After a brief holdout, Stephen Jones and Scandrick came to terms with a one-year extension that would up his base salary and he was back and ready to roll. Orlando has been slowed early in camp with some knee soreness and the Cowboys will continue to monitor him in that regard. However, Scandrick's feisty demeanor and grouchy persona make him an interesting character, but the guy can play ball. Every year he's improved parts to his game and he's absolutely determined to make the Pro Bowl. He's one of the best cover corners in the league and he's coming on strong at a time where he's needed most.

Brandon Carr

Carr struggled early in 2014 while also dealing with the unfortunate passing of his mother. However, toward the end of the season and in the playoffs he certainly improved his play. Now, the big question will be how long it will take for him to recover from this upcoming hand surgery. Many pundits this offseason were clamoring for a reduced salary from the $12.7 million figure he currently places on the cap. The Cowboys at this point haven't really given much though to doing so. They are content with what Carr is making and believe that he is more than capable of returning to his 2012-self again. So far, resident Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus says that Carr is on track for improvement. Todd Archer had a story just the other day about a new routine Carr is trying out:

After just about every morning walk-through, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr lays a speed ladder on the ground on the practice field and goes to work.

For 20 minutes, his feet pitter-patter on the ground as quickly as possible as he goes up the ladder and down the ladder. In and out, out and in. On one, he turns his right hip as he goes through. On another, he turns his left hip.

The work can be mesmerizing as his feet dance across the grass, like a dancer working across a stage.

This is interesting because Carr is a great competitor and he's certainly the type that hears all the outside noise about him. Yet, he continues to push himself and this year it's all about improving his footwork. He's been a durable player for the Cowboys. The hope is that this broken hand won't be too big  of a setback and he'll continue to improve once he makes it back. Just like Tony Romo finds something new to tweak each year, Carr is taking the same approach to give his all to the defense.

Morris Claiborne

To be honest, Claiborne is like my pet cat this offseason. After overcoming a serious patella-tendon injury, there was doubt that Mo' was going to have any impact at all for the defense this season. But make no mistake, they could really use him. His approach to his rehab has been outstanding and he was rewarded by being ready for training camp. It's always been more about confidence and mental lapses more than anything for Mo' but the team hopes all of that is behind him. So far, so good as they say. Claiborne has been one of the more impressive corners to watch through these practices and though he has a long way to go, he realizes that this is his chance. The expectations are so low that it seems about right for guy of his caliber to make due on his talent.  He had one of the better practices for a corner on this roster last week. He picked off Tony Romo on a diving interception that only a player with his true playmaking ability could do, he almost had another pick later in the same drill. Claiborne has a tall mountain to climb but it sure sounds like he's willing and able to try.

Byron Jones

With the impending injury to Brandon Carr, now is the time to really see Byron Jones get some added reps. When he was drafted, the Cowboys were touted as getting the most athletic cornerback in the draft. He's much more than just another good athlete, the kid has true skill for the position. He has great length and he offers little to no separation between him and the receiver. His battles with Dez Bryant have been a lot of fun to watch and will only get better as camp progresses. There's certainly a lot for him to take in and learn from but he's a willing learner and has already got the respect from the Cowboys' leading receiver. A lot has been made about his ability to play safety as well and there is certainly an opportunity for that down the road. Right now, this organization is going to give him every opportunity to earn a spot on the outside.

Tyler Patmon & Corey White

One is having a great camp and the other is creeping up from behind. Patmon has offered the Cowboys another feisty-type corner with playmaking abilities. Every time he's on the field, he finds a way to make a huge play. Patmon is a great competitor that is on his way to a lot more playing time if he can remain healthy. Corey White is definitely not the schlub that some Saints' fans believed he was. He has been getting reps at both safety and corner and has made a handful of plays\. Though Sterling Moore was a favorite of some around Valley Ranch, White has the potential to give them more at the position. His size and range are good and he seems to be doing well at everything they throw at him.

Barry Church & J.J. Wilcox

The safeties have struggled a bit early but it's pretty difficult trying to counter the receiving power that this offense currently possesses. Both Church and Wilcox play a similar style which is why some believe that there is potential for Jones to eventually land at free safety. Barry Church has been a solid contributor for this team and really helps the Cowboys against tight ends and in the running game. Wilcox has some ball skills and is a fine hitter but still has a lot of room to grow in only his fourth year in the position including college. The Cowboys would like to get more athletic on their back end which makes sense to eventually see what Jones has there. White can also add some depth at safety too. The Cowboys don't have bad safeties at all though and with an improved pass rush, it should help them in their efforts as well.

Over the past few seasons, this secondary has had trouble evolving with such a poor pass rushing unit up front. For Dallas, if the moves they made translates to a truly solid defensive line, the secondary will turn up as the major benefactor. Jerome Henderson has done a nice job at coaching these guys up and hopefully they will finally be in the right position to make plays and cause turnovers. Unlike his typical 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme, Rod Marinelli is allowing his defensive backs to play a lot of man coverage to capitalize on their best attributes. Once this unit is back to full health with Carr and Scandrick, they should begin the season in a much better position than previous years. It's now time for some of the young guys to step up as camp continues and fight for their positioning on a unit that could surprise a lot of people in 2015.

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