IRVING, Texas – One position on this Cowboys defense doesn't seem to have any question marks, at least.
There's no question Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will be the starting cornerbacks on opening night of the 2013 season – that's more than many players on the Dallas defense can say. With that big question out of the way, the Cowboys' starting duo is looking for more stability in their second season together.
"The transition from last year to this year is pretty smooth," Claiborne said. "We're still learning, trying to learn the new defense, but I believe it's coming along pretty well."
The tandem looks pretty good on paper. Claiborne is a top 10 draft pick who showed flashes as a rookie, while Carr is a proven veteran who signed a lucrative free agent contract in 2012. It's easy to forget, with credentials like those, that both starting corners were still getting accustomed to a new environment.
"We both came in at the same time. He's been in the league, but we came into the same system, and we were both starting new so we tried to help each other in any way we could," Claiborne said.
The actual season didn't read as smoothly as the script, however, as injury problems plagued the defense, while both Carr and Claiborne dealt with setbacks of their own – from injuries to onfield struggles, to the offield death of Carr's friend and former teammate Jovan Belcher.
"It was a rollercoaster," Carr said. "I tried to prepare myself as much as I could before I signed on the dotted line to become a Cowboy, because I knew how hectic it could be, both on and off the field, but I really didn't know how hectic it could be."
The hope is for fewer ups and downs in the coming year. In fact, for a cornerback, no news at all is the best news, as it means no one is throwing the ball your way. With a year of experience behind them, Carr said the pair should be settled in for a more consistent effort this time. If Claiborne's increased presence is anything to go by, it could be quite an effort. [embedded_ad]
"He's come back – he's talking more, he's more into it. His confidence is through the roof, which is great, especially playing for the Cowboys – playing out there on that island can get kind of lonely," Carr said of his partner. "From what I've seen so far, he's up to every challenge and he's out there barking back -- him and Dez go at it every now and then. Just to see his confidence and his play elevate as this offseason has progressed has been a joy."
It remains to be seen how any of this translates to live action. But as the long wait for training camp draws to an end, Carr said the lessons learned in the past year should carry forward in this new-look Cowboys' defense.
"Last year was kind of a trial and error on a lot of different things – just the way we play. We were trying to get a chemistry established and still trying to learn each other, both on and off the field," he said. "We both play different sides of the ball, but we kind of try to push each other in practice and in games, help each other."