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Roster Rundown: Claiborne Must Figure Thing Out Quickly
Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players’ impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features cornerback Morris Claiborne.)
Name: Morris Claiborne
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 191
Experience: 2 seasons
Key stat: Of the 10 interceptions thrown by Peyton Manning this year, Claiborne managed to snag one of them – his only pick of the year. The turnover helped set up another Cowboys touchdown in a wild 51-48 loss to Manning’s Broncos.
Contract Status: Signed through 2017.
2013 Impact: There are days where you sit in your office while studying tape of your team and wonder if a player move that you made or didn’t make was the right thing to do. When I watch Morris Claiborne play, I often have those thoughts. Coming out of LSU, I honestly believed that Claiborne was the real deal, but injuries and at times a lack of confidence robbed him of that player I saw battling Alabama or Auburn down after down. What is interesting about Claiborne is when he is on the field and healthy, he does show you the ability to make plays. He had four big stops against the Giants opening night, later against the Chargers he had 10 tackles, the following week against the Broncos, what might have been his finest hour. While lining up against a talent group of receivers, he went toe-to-toe , coming away with an interception, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He later had outstanding games against the Redskins and Eagles back-to-back, but then what has plagued his career, the untimely injury. In this case, he missed six games with an injured hamstring. Of those six games, three of them were loses to Saints, Bears and Packers, who all were able to generate huge numbers through the air. In games that Claiborne played, the Cowboys had a record of 5-4 and as a defense had some of their better efforts of the season. For Claiborne, the problems haven’t been the playing ability but battling injuries have. It has been rare that he has stepped on the field for this defense and been completely healthy and until he can get over those issues, there are always going to be questions about was it the right thing to do in drafting him. Now going into his third season, the benefit of doubt and the let’s wait and see approach becomes a little less patient.
Where He Fits: For Morris Claiborne this really is a make or break season for him in the secondary. He will get the opportunity to battle Orlando Scandrick for the starting job at the right corner spot but my feeling is that Scandrick is not going away quietly. To be honest, this might be the best situation for Claiborne to have to fight for his job but if he cannot stay healthy enough to stay on the field, then this is a moot point. Claiborne is going to have to find a way to make this the most productive off season that he has ever gone through. He needs to take the same approach that Scandrick took in the off season conditioning program as an award winner and reshape his body and physically get ready for this season. There is no question of his talent and even though, he and Carr were adjusting to this scheme, he owes it to this organization to be at his best because if not, then the front office will need to move on and learn from the mistake they made.
The B-word has been thrown out for a while now. I think it’s a little premature to call Claiborne a bust, but he’s running out of time. If he doesn’t get his job back from Scandrick, and start making more plays, then you’ll have no other choice but to call him that. Either way, Claiborne’s first two years have been a disappointment. His first season was fine, but you expect him to take that next step and he did – he just went backward. Other than the pick of Peyton Manning, which was more of a bad throw than any great break on the ball, Claiborne wasn’t that effective last year. He hasn’t proven he can stay healthy and this offseason is no different as he is rehabbing two surgeries (shoulder and hand). The Cowboys made a splash to get him in 2012 but so far, Claiborne hasn’t lived up to the hype.