IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys hope
Claiborne, who has already dealt with shoulder and knee injuries four weeks into the season, played one of his most complete games against the Rams two Sundays ago, but he had trouble in the nickel package last weekend in a loss to the Chargers.
“It’s just the consistency with his feet, with his hands, whether it’s press technique or off technique or playing the proper technique that we’re asking him to play,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “It’s a challenging position. You’re out there on an island. Your best friend is your technique.”
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had the best game of his career against the Cowboys last weekend, catching five passes for 80 yards, while lining up mostly on Claiborne’s side.
Garrett said oftentimes a young player can become inconsistent in his technique and his understanding in what he’s supposed to do, as well as why the coaches are asking him to do it and technically how to get it done.
“The level of trust that you have to have in those things is critical to being successful, particularly at a spot like that,” Garrett said.
The switch to the new defensive scheme has been tough to adjust to for some of the defenders, especially in pass defense, where the Cowboys rank 27th in the league. That’s before facing Peyton Manning and a Broncos attack that ranks first in the league this upcoming weekend.
Garrett said the trick for Claiborne, who only has one career interception and none this year, is making sure the second-year corner’s techniques are completely ingrained in his mind.
“There’s so much teaching that goes on at every position, particularly that position,” Garrett said. “He’s certainly capable of doing it. Again, I keep saying this, he flashes it, but just the maturity to be a consistent player play in and play out, that’s what the best players do. He hasn’t done that consistently enough within the game or from game to game.”
Because of that, Claiborne is now coming in on nickel packages, while
The Cowboys made the switch to Scandrick after Claiborne dislocated his shoulder in the opener and have stuck with it since.
“Some things you just can’t control,” said cornerback
Carr said there’s no time for feelings getting in the way, and it’s not like Claiborne isn’t getting his chances. Claiborne was still on the field for 89 percent of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps against a Chargers team that spread the ball out.
“It’s all just business, and we’re trying to put the best 11 out there to win ballgames,” Carr said. “Those guys are out there competing. That’s all you can ask for right now. As far as the decision that was made, it’s the decision that’s been made, and we’re going to go with it.”
It’s not the position the Cowboys would have liked to have been in after snagging Claiborne early last year, and it’s one that may not have happened if Claiborne hadn’t miss the amount of time he missed. Carr said it’s also a difficult task for a young defensive player to be asked to switch schemes that quickly in his career.
“You’ve got to learn a whole new thought process and terminology and technique and things like that,” said Carr, who’s also learning the nuances of Monte Kiffin’s system. “it’s a bit of a learning curve, but he’s still fighting. Coach [Jerome] Henderson is doing a good job of each and every day working us to get us to where it’s second nature on the field. In due time, this thing will start clicking and guys will be where they need to be on the field.”
There don’t appear to be any plans to take Claiborne off the field entirely. The head coach said he thinks Claiborne will start playing better and more consistently when he plays more confidently and with the right technique.
Garrett said he can look back at each completion against Claiborne and tell him what he should do better technically, but confidence is also critical when manning a position that asks a player to cover the most athletic players in the game.
“Usually those two things work hand in hand,” Garrett said. “When you’re playing technically sound and you have ability, you tend to have more and more confidence because you’re in the right place. They went to him too much in this ballgame, and they were too effective. He’s just got to play better, and he will play better.”
Garrett also hopes Claiborne can stay healthy enough to build that confidence without missing time. It’s tough to maintain consistency when fighting through injuries, but Garrett said that can’t be an excuse. It’s a reality for Claiborne as he battles through the shoulder injury.
Despite those health concerns, the head coach still believes in his second-year corner. He doesn’t think there’s another combination he’d rather be rolling with than the one he used last week.
“If we thought otherwise, we would make that change,” Garrett said. “But what he needs to do is he just needs to play better. He needs to play with the right technique and he has to do it consistently over and over and over again.”