IRVING, Texas – Morris Claiborne practiced fully Monday and is expected to be back on the field Sunday to face one of the league's most prolific passing attacks.
The Cowboys' secondary survived the Steelers last weekend without Claiborne, who sat out with a concussion, but they could use all the healthy defensive backs possible to defend the multiple targets Saints quarterback Drew Brees will throw to.
"I'm just happy to be back, missing last week and coming back for this week," Claiborne said. "You're up for a team that's going to throw the ball around. You'll have some opportunities to make some plays on the ball."
Claiborne said the headaches he experienced after losing his helmet on a sideline collision against the Bengals have ceased. He passed all the necessary concussion tests to start practicing again this week in preparation to face the league's leading passer.
Cornerbacks Sterling Moore and Michael Coe played meaningful snaps last week with Claiborne sidelined, particularly when the Steelers used multiple receiver sets. Claiborne said he was itching to get out on the field, but he was proud of what the backups who'd been in Dallas for such a short amount of time were able to do once again.
"They came in and did their job," Claiborne said. "They did exactly what the coaches asked them to do. Guys just coming in, you're getting thrown in the fire like that, to go in and handle themselves the way they did is great."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cowboys defense held up when it mattered most late in the game. Claiborne said the defense didn't lose anything with him on the sideline, and he wasn't surprised at what the defensive backs were able to accomplish.
The new athletes in the locker room may never have suited up for the Cowboys before, but many of them aren't new to the NFL. Claiborne said he'll supply knowledge that could be helpful to the newcomers, but it's not uncommon for him to be picking the brain of the veteran pickups every week.
He said he welcomes the new arrivals with open arms, and every addition to the team seems to connect quickly with the rest of the Cowboys.
"Everybody comes in with football smarts and the focus to be able to learn this defense," Claiborne said. "You see guys staying after to get help and learn their position, some of the new guys. It lets us know it's important to them, because it's important to us."
One of those new arrivals was cornerback Sterling Moore, who's played meaningful snaps every Sunday since he arrived in Dallas the day before the Eagles game three weeks ago. Moore became an important pickup after bouncing around the Patriots' active roster and practice squad.
The defensive back was out on the field 62 percent of the time on defense against the Steelers, taking 37 snaps and recording two tackles in the victory.
"I've played pretty well up until this point," Moore said. "I still need to continue to grow in some areas of the game, especially here, just because I don't know the entire system. But even when I was on the practice squad in New England, my mindset was, 'I'm good enough to play on a 53-man roster.' I think I kind of proved that last year in the playoffs; I played really well. I played really well in some games this year, so even when I was on the practice squad, it was just like, I'm just buying my time, I know I can play and when my opportunity comes, I'm going to take advantage of it."
Moore had two passes defended in each of his final four games in New England last season, including three playoff games. The Cowboys clearly saw the same thing the Patriots did to make the SMU product active during their playoff run last year.
The experience Moore has gained the last few weeks in the Cowboys' system will be crucial as he prepares for the passing attack of the Saints this week. Moore has never seen Brees in a regular season game, but he did play against him in the preseason a year ago.
"The good thing is we actually practiced against him for a week up there in New England, so I got to see Brees a little bit," Moore said. He's an intelligent guy, really intelligent guy, who can make adjustments off of what you're doing, so you've kind of got to keep the wheel spinning on him and disguise things as much as possible."
Any knowledge Moore gained from that experience will be valuable as he takes the field for his new team, which continues to feature new faces almost every week who help in some form or fashion. Moore said the Cowboys have held up defensively despite all of the injuries because the new players embrace the system and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan understands what they can and can't do on short notice.
Even with Claiborne back, Moore will likely still contribute and provide the type of depth needed to face a team such as the Saints. The cornerback said he wouldn't be opposed to playing safety, either, if that's what the Cowboys need.
Judging by the way Ryan has shifted players around, that wouldn't be shocking to see.
"It's definitely something I can do," Moore said. "How much this week, I don't know. It just depends what the game plan is. If it does come, it might be more third down than anything. But it's something I can do … it's a challenge I definitely look forward to, whatever they throw my way."