Ellis: Never Any Doubt Claiborne Would Start From Day 1

The Cowboys talk a lot about competition, but in the end, it doesn't apply in every situation. That's why Morris Claiborne is already one of the defense's first-team cornerbacks.

He didn't look like the second coming of Mel Renfro in last week's soft opening to camp, going against his fellow rookies. And he wasn't a shutdown guy, exactly, in Monday's first practice against veterans. There's little doubt Claiborne will catch up quickly, of course. Almost every talent evaluator across the league thought he was the best defensive player coming in this year.

But as of right now, if Rob Ryan's defense needed to stop Miles Austin or Kevin Ogletree to win the Super Bowl, you would probably want Orlando Scandrick on them instead of Claiborne. And if he were healthy, Mike Jenkins would be a better option as well. But there should've never been any doubt that this was going to be Claiborne's job, opposite Brandon Carr, just as soon as he was cleared to practice following his wrist rehab.

"He's here. He's ready to go," Ryan said. "We drafted this young man to make a difference for us, and we're going to give him every opportunity to do that. So that's why you trade up in the draft to get a young man like this."

It's not that Claiborne is already a starter *because *he was the No. 6 overall pick. The other way around.

He was the No. 6 overall pick *because *he projected as a Day 1 starter.

"We watched him a lot in college and we felt like he was an outstanding football player at the collegiate level at LSU, playing in the SEC," Jason Garrett said. "That's why we drafted him as high as we did . . . He's a smart football guy. He picks things up. He's very natural and very instinctive out there. You can tell he has a good feel for the game. Now, his first days of practice were the other day in our pre-training camp back at Valley Ranch and I thought he did a nice job. He's certainly rusty like a lot of the younger guys are, trying to get themselves acclimated to our system and really playing at the NFL level.

"But he certainly has the capability, physically, to do that, and we're going to try to give him as many opportunities to go against the best competition as early as we can to get him ready to play for this season."

The point is, Claiborne is not perfect today, and he won't be perfect a month from now. He'll go through some typical rookie struggles, just like his former LSU teammates Patrick Peterson did for the Cardinals last year. He'll surely have some great moments, and some not so great ones.

The Cowboys will live through the ups and downs. They committed to that in April.

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