Despite completing four weeks of OTAs and mini-camp practices, several things remain unsettled for the Cowboys. When the team reports to training camp on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif., several questions still need answers.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp.
Today, the series shifts to a player that has yet to meet lofty expectations, as the staff discusses the upcoming season for Morris Claiborne.
16) What Are Realistic Expectations For Mo Claiborne in 2015?
Bryan Broaddus: I find myself at the exact same spot I was in last season in regards to Morris Claiborne. I am optimistic but I also understand that I have been down this path before. I really believe that things will be different for Claiborne this season and that for one season he will be able to put all of his injury history while in the NFL behind him and that we will see a healthier and more confident player. For Claiborne it has never been about his willingness to work hard, and it is because of that work ethic that my expectations for him are more in line with that player I scouted at LSU and will give Brandon Carr a run for his starting spot in camp and also be a big contributor to the success of this defense through his play. [embeddedad0]
Rob Phillips: Expectations for Claiborne should be tempered because he's coming off a serious patellar tendon injury – generally considered more serious than an ACL tear. (As a reference point, running back Ryan Williams had the same surgery in 2011 and said it took him two years to feel like himself again.) But every player's experience is different, Claiborne's work ethic and progress in rehab with the athletic trainers has really impressed the Cowboys, and it's encouraging that he's pointing to the start of training camp to get back into team work. Best case for Mo: he performs well enough in preseason to be the third corner, which allows first-round pick Byron Jones to potentially move to safety. The healthier Claiborne is, the deeper and more versatile the secondary becomes. But there's no way to know for sure until he gets back into practice and starts going full speed again.
David Helman: Jerry Jones is confident that Claiborne is going to surprise people this year, the Cowboys' coaches are optimistic he's going to be available for the start of training camp and Claiborne himself sounds determined to prove himself in the final year of his contract. Call me a pessimist, but I just can't bring myself to buy the hype. The former first-round pick struggled last September before he tore his patellar tendon, and he's still just 10 months removed from that injury. His job also got that much harder with Byron Jones entering the fray at the same position. I think Claiborne is healthy enough, determined enough and expensive enough to earn a roster spot in 2015. But I don't think it's realistic to expect major contributions from him.
Nick Eatman: This is a tough one because it's hard to count on him because of injuries and maybe a confidence problem, but my expectations for Claiborne is that he makes the team and becomes a solid contributor. Now, obviously that's probably not good enough for a guy the Cowboys traded up to get at No. 6 overall. But that's not the point anymore. The focus is right now and the question is can Claiborne do enough in camp to show he's healthy and to prove he's worthy of putting out there, perhaps over another cornerback that might be a better fit. He needs to show he's still got the athleticism advantage that he had over the other defensive backs. If that isn't lost, then there's no reason why he can't bounce back. He might not ever be great, but if he can to solid and maybe even good – like he was as a rookie – he's got a shot to help this team.