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Creating Turnovers A Focus, But Claiborne Open To Kick Returns
IRVING, Texas – When selling the farm to move up for an elite talent in the draft, no team is hoping to get a solid player. They want a playmaker. The Cowboys believed Morris Claiborne could be just that.
It’s only two weeks into his NFL career, and he hasn’t done anything wrong to this point, but the Cowboys defense could’ve used more catalytic plays in Seattle on Sunday – a turnover or two, specifically – and neither Claiborne nor anyone else was able to produce one. It’s probably bothering the No. 6 overall pick more than anyone that he wasn’t able to go up and intercept a pass to change a game. The Cowboys have only one takeaway so far this season, and lost the turnover battle 2-0 in Seattle.
“I haven’t given up any touchdowns, but I feel like I need to get some hands on some balls,” Claiborne said. “That’s a big part of the game if you can knock it down, but if you can go take it out of the air, that just changes the game … Here and now I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to actually get a clean ball out of the air. Last week I had a great opportunity to do it, but I just knocked it down.”
While he continues to become more comfortable playing at the NFL level, Claiborne has been emphasizing the importance of playing honest in coverage, not taking chances, and trying to keep receivers in front of him.
But he doesn’t believe that means he can’t make plays on the ball.
“You stay on top, take away that deep ball, they’re not going to keep forcing it down there,” Claiborne said. “They’re going to have to come back with come-backs, something like that, and if you’re playing tight press and you’re on top of everything, you could be able to play it from down, and I believe you can come up with one.
“You’ve just got to keep him in front of you, keep your eyes on him, and that’s where a big part of film comes in. When you’re watching film, you see what they like to do. Is he pressing? How does he have his head when he’s running straight up the field? When does he throttle down? So, you can be able to get a jump on it.”
There’s nothing wrong with a defensive player wanting to get his hands on the ball – coordinators love the mindset – but if the Cowboys fancy Claiborne as a guy who can take the ball to the house, maybe they should engineer ways to get it in his hands.
With Felix Jones’ role as kickoff returner causing controversy this week, following a fumble on Sunday, it’s worth noting that Claiborne returned 22 kicks as a junior at LSU. He averaged 25.1 yards per return, and had a 99-yard touchdown against West Virginia.
“I wouldn’t mind doing that at all,” Claiborne said. “We’ve got a guy that’s back there right now … he’s doing a great job, Felix, but if they need anybody else, I’m here. I just started getting a lot more reps in it now, backing Felix up and just trying to get all the catches I can get.”