The Cowboys have completed their OTAs and minicamp practices. The offseason is history. Training camp in Oxnard is up next in late July.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2016 season.
Today, our staff continues the series with a focus on cornerback Orlando Scandrick and how his return from injury will impact the defense in 2016.
*No. 11 – How Will Scandrick's Return Affect Cowboys' Defense? *
Bryan Broaddus:One of the biggest fears of a scout during training camp, is losing one of your key players before the season even kicks off. Some positions have the depth to withstand that type of loss - while others do not. The loss of Orlando Scandrick took the club's best defensive back off the field in both the base and nickel defenses, which left Rod Marinelli and the staff scrambling to replace him. Bodies were thrown at his position but no one was able to match the talent and skill which showed in those games where one or two stops were needed to get off the field and close the game out. With Scandrick back in the lineup, Marinelli can procced with his plan of playing him on the left side and moving Brandon Carr to the right side in order to protect him in the scheme from having to deal with the ball consistently coming in his direction. It will also give him the confidence to have a reliable slot player that can not only carry his man all over the field but also bring on that occasional blitz to disrupt the quarterback which they missed without him in the lineup.
Rob Phillips: Positive impact on this defense, for sure. Scandrick is a versatile player with the instincts to move inside and play the slot - probably the toughest job on defense given how pass-oriented the league has become. The Cowboys tried multiple players in the slot last year and it didn't work. Losing Dez Bryant and Tony Romo had a devastating impact on the offense, but you can't underestimate how Scandrick's presence allows the other defensive backs to settle into their roles. He's nearly a year removed from the knee injury and has worked extremely hard with the athletic training staff to get back to 100 percent.
Nick Eatman:Naturally, we talk about last year's 4-12 debacle and quickly point to the losses of Romo and Dez as the biggest factors when it comes to injury. That's probably true but Scandrick is a close third because he was their best defensive player in 2014, in my opinion. Talking to him on Thursday, he said he feels back to his "old self" again and even though he might be limited in practices and have more days off than usual, he thinks he is finally back to 100 percent. As the Cowboys move him to the left side, it should give the defense a chance to play more man coverage and allow the safeties and linebackers to roam more. Scandrick is not only the best cover corner the Cowboys have, but arguably the smartest and most instinctive player on the entire defense, ranking him right up there with Sean Lee. Scandrick covering his receiver could allow the quarterback to hold onto the ball for just one more second, and that could be the difference in a sack or fumble that wasn't occurring much in 2015.[embeddedad0]
David Helman:Obviously, returning Orlando Scandrick to the lineup can only help this team. He's one of the best slot corners in the game, and he's capable of severely limiting what opposing offenses are able to do in the passing game. He's also capable of moving outside, giving Rod Marinelli options in how he wants to mix and match his coverage. I'm not sure Scandrick – on his own – takes the secondary to another level, though. With seven career interceptions in seven seasons, he has never been known as a ballhawk, and he's never been the type of corner to completely shut down one half of the field. Having Scandrick back in the lineup is obviously a positive for the secondary, but he can't do it all himself. It's going to take inspired efforts from the likes of Byron Jones, Mo Claiborne and Brandon Carr – not to mention help from the pass rush – to push this group to the next level.