(Editor's Note: The writers of DallasCowboys.com continue to break down some of the pressing position battles to keep an eye on once training camp gets underway in a few weeks. Today, we look at the backup cornerback competition.)
What's the Issue:
With training camp a few weeks away, the Cowboys' top three cornerback spots look set:
Orlando Scandrick is returning from the knee injury that cost him the 2015 season; Morris Claiborne is back on a one-year contract; and, after annual offseason speculation about his contract, Brandon Carr took a pay cut and will indeed finish out the five-year deal he signed with Dallas in 2012. The three veterans should take the majority of the cornerback snaps in the base defense and sub-packages.
The question is, who fills out the depth chart when the season begins?
The Cowboys kept five cornerbacks on their initial 53-man roster last summer after placing Scandrick on injured reserve. Deji Olatoye, Josh Thomas and sixth-round draft pick Anthony Brown are among seven corners on the current 90-man who will compete in training camp for a spot.
Don't Forget About:
Rob Phillips: Depth became a major issue for the Cowboys' secondary last year, as 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones found himself switching between cornerback and safety at times throughout the season to help compensate for injuries to Scandrick and Claiborne. One constant has been Carr, a 16-game starter in each of his first four seasons with the team. To highlight the importance of depth: the Cowboys' cornerbacks didn't tally an interception until Terrance Mitchell, who was released in June, and Olatoye each picked off a pass in the final three games. Like Jones, both players had to step in with Scandrick on injured reserve and Claiborne dealing with a hamstring injury. The Cowboys had a fourth-round draft grade on Brown, their sixth-rounder out of Purdue, so his development will be a storyline in camp. The team will likely keep their eye out for free-agent help, too – they worked out veteran Brandon Boykin in June but did not sign him.
Nick Eatman:I still think the Cowboys have some plans for cornerback Josh Thomas, a veteran who has bounced around a few teams after being drafted by Dallas back in 2011. Thomas has been banged up somewhat here in the last few weeks, but should be ready to compete for the start of training camp. He's been learning the slot position and has the strength and size to fight off the quicker receivers inside. Thomas has been around enough to be able to contribute on special teams and should provide experience the Cowboys can lean on in case of an injury. While Olatoye and Brown might have more upside, Thomas would be a better fit to play on the outside or in the slot if needed.[embeddedad0]
David Helman: It's so easy to write off a guy who spends an extensive amount of time on the practice squad – which is exactly how Deji Olatoye started out his stint with the Cowboys. But when Olatoye got promoted to the active roster on Nov. 18 last season, he set about proving his ability. He appeared in five games last year and started in two, notching 13 tackles and a pass deflection. Most memorably, he provided the Dallas defense with one of its few clutch plays of the season when he intercepted Tyrod Taylor in the end zone at the end of the first half against Buffalo. At 6-1, 194 pounds, Olatoye is one of the biggest corners on this roster. Given an opportunity for more playing time, I think Olatoye is perfectly capable of establishing himself as the No. 4 corner on this roster.