OXNARD, Calif. – So now what?
That's seemingly what head coach Jason Garrett, and specifically defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, has had to ask himself several times already this offseason.
Now what do we do with the recent news about Orlando Scandrick, who has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Now what? The Cowboys had to do that in May when middle linebacker Sean Lee was lost for the year with a knee injury. It happened again when DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot in the first week of camp. The Cowboys have also had to deal with Brandon Carr missing the first two weeks of camp because of family matters.
The now-what mentality has had to surface several times already and the Cowboys were forced to return to that mode once again thanks to the Scandrick situation. While he will return for the Week 5 game against the Texans, Scandrick will not be available to face the 49ers, Titans, Rams and Saints.
That's not just one of the team's top three cornerbacks but the Cowboys' best slot corner and one of the better inside cornerbacks in the NFL.
Like the Cowboys always say, it's time for 'next man up.' Those candidates include youngsters B.W. Webb and Terrance Mitchell, along with Sterling Moore, who has been injured the last two weeks with a groin injury but returned to practice this week.
For now, Moore seems to be the top choice for the Cowboys to play inside when the defense uses three cornerbacks along with starters Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
During Tuesday's afternoon practice with the Raiders here in Oxnard, Moore was the team's third cornerback in the team drills against Oakland's three-wide sets. Scandrick was able to practice and is eligible to play in the preseason games. He participated Tuesday but the Cowboys were without Carr, who continues to ease his way back to football shape.
But other than Scandrick, all eyes seems to be on Moore, who acknowledged the opportunity Tuesday, stating he supports his teammate but needs to make the most of his extended reps.
"It's definitely big shoes to fill. He's one of the premiere inside corners in this league," Moore said of Scandrick. "I'm definitely going to look to him for some advice and for tips that he has. He's played there for a long time. But it's next man up and we don't expect any drop-offs."
When it comes to playing inside, Moore said there are plenty of challenges, from the lack of a sideline, the wide-open spaces and the quickness in how plays develop.
"Just being more disciplined," Moore said of playing the slot. "A lot of times on the outside if a guy catches the ball you have the sideline. It's hard to get a run after the catch. But if a guy catches the ball inside, he has a lot of space to work with. So it's just being very disciplined and making sure you get the tackle if the ball's caught. [embedded_ad]
Moore is one just two players on this team to have played in a Super Bowl, along with defensive end Jeremy Mincey. His experience in New England likely helped him contribute to the Cowboys right away in 2012 when he was claimed off waivers on Thursday, joined the Cowboys on a Friday and played in a game Sunday afternoon.
He was cut last year after training camp in a surprising move but eventually returned later in the season and played in five games.
"You like that he competes, and he's got a savviness about him," defensive back coach Jerome Henderson said. "Last year, when he played in those games when we had guys dinged up, he played well. He went in and we were able to function with him in there, and so you like having him available."
But he's not the only player in the mix here. Mitchell, a seventh-round pick from Oregon, should get a few looks as well. Mitchell said he's not afraid of moving inside to the slot.
"Early in my career at Oregon I played it. I actually like playing inside," Mitchell said. "You get a lot of action in there. Sometimes at corner you get caught up being on the island by yourself. Being in the slot, it makes you better."
Considering the Cowboys just lost their best slot corner and one of their best defensive players for the first month of the season, they'll be all for players doing anything that makes them better.