ARLINGTON, Texas -Coming into Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys were burdened with filling the void of Gerald Sensabaugh, who was nursing a calf injury.
Danny McCray was ready to play significant snaps, but it was Brandon Carr who stepped up and showed his versatility. The fifth-year cornerback was a surprise starter at safety, playing there on nickel downs and allowing Mike Jenkins to start at cornerback.
The move allowed the Cowboys to take advantage of their depth at the cornerback position. Since Jenkins came back from his shoulder rehab, the Cowboys have been experimenting with ways of getting him onto the field to contribute.
Through two weeks of the season (and the entire preseason), Carr stood out as the Cowboys' best lockdown corner. Many expected him to spend the entire game matched up with lengthy Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. Instead, the Cowboys put faith in Carr's discipline and versatility by moving him over to safety to serve as a security blanket in certain situations.
It is a credit to Carr that the Cowboy's felt so strongly about his defensive awareness that they would instruct him to play anything other than the position at which he was the NFL's most prized free agent this offseason.
"Whatever it takes to win, I'm down for it," Carr said. "We put Jenkins out there at corner and it wasn't a letdown at all. He held his own."
While the move was a surprise to many watching the game, Carr explained that he had been preparing to play safety all week.
"I got a head start, I think it was Monday they let me know," Carr said. "I just had to get my mind right, watch extra film, not at corner, but at safety, just to get a different feel for how things were going to be thrown at me. I think I did a decent job."
When asked after the game how much experience he had at safety, Carr provided a lighthearted, if not revealing, response.
"60 minutes," Carr joked. "I took a couple snaps in high schools back in my early, early days playing, but other than that, it's been a long, long time."
After starting safety Barry Church went down, the Cowboys required contributions from every defensive back on the roster.
Despite depth concerns at safety, the result was a very impressive defensive effort and a near shutdown of the Buccaneers passing game. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was limited to only 110 yards passing after racking up 243 yards against the Giants in his last game.
Morris Claiborne explained that the Cowboys have such talent at cornerback that when Carr moved over to safety, the coverage did not miss a beat.
"We have a lot of depth on this team and we have a lot of guys that can fill in when other guys are down," Claiborne said. "We won't lose too much."
The Cowboys' cornerbacks were also able to keep their impressive streak of not allowing a wide receiver to score on them all season. In fact, Tampa's only touchdown of the game - a one-yard pass to tight end Luke Stocker - came after a Tony Romo interception gave the Buccaneer's terrific field position. Jackson, the $55 million free agent addition, was held to just one reception for 29 yards.
When asked if he thought the cornerback core was attempting to build upon something special, Claiborne did not hesitate.
"Oh yeah, I think we are," Claiborne said. "Coach Henderson does a good job with us, preparing us and getting us ready to go out and play ball. And we take a lot of pride in ourselves, to get ourselves ready to go out and play."