(Editor's Note: This is the third of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2015 season. The series continues with the cornerbacks.)
Pressing Matters:There's no shortage of pressing matters where this group is concerned. Brandon Carr has struggled in coverage since moving to the Cowboys' 4-3 system, and he had zero interceptions in 2014. Despite that, he's scheduled to count $12.7 million toward the salary cap as one of the team's most expensive players. The Cowboys would be wise to find a way to rework that contract. On the other side of things, it remains to be seen if Morris Claiborne will even be healthy enough to return from his torn patellar tendon for the 2015 season. It's unfortunate, because of such a devastating injury, but the Cowboys need to begin thinking of a future without the former No. 6 overall pick, who has yet to meet those expectations. Sterling Moore, who was admirable in relief of Claiborne, is also a restricted free agent, and the Cowboys must determine what to do with him going forward. The only corners on this roster with concrete futures in Dallas are Orlando Scandrick and Tyler Patmon, and that's a scary prospect.
2014 Evaluation:Nobody is going to confuse these corners with the group that was on display in the Super Bowl this past week. All credit to Scandrick, who had a career year and helped boost a middling defense, but big plays didn't come often enough from the position. Of the Cowboys' 18 interceptions on the year, corners accounted for just three of them – Scandrick had two, including a game-saver against Chicago, while Patmon and Claiborne each had one. This wasn't the same secondary that surrendered several 600-yard games in 2013, but coverage was still a prevalent issue. Dallas finished 26th in the league against the pass, allowing 250 yards per game. Now, it'd be unfair to pin that all on the cornerbacks, as tight ends and the like killed the Cowboys all year. But there's plenty to be said for guys like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin beating their matchups, as well. It was an improvement from 2013, but it wasn't exactly great.
Need More From: Just about everyone. Of all the guys who played in 2014, you feel good about Scandrick going forward – and not a whole lot else. Carr improved down the stretch to the point that you might even call him reliable during the last five or six weeks of the season. But that hardly justifies the $50 million contract he's playing out. It would be a mistake to just assume Claiborne will be healthy in time for training camp. Even if he is, the three games he did play were hardly evidence that he had turned a corner in his development, as he was benched in favor of Scandrick after a poor showing in Week 3 against St. Louis. Patmon and Moore both proved to be capable players during the 2014 season, but probably not to the point that the Cowboys don't want to provide them with some competition.
Upgrades Needed:If the Cowboys can bring Carr back at a reduced rate, then his improved play down the stretch is at least encouraging. It wouldn't be the most cost-effective strategy to cut him, so it'd be preferable to bring him back for less money. Scandrick has been fantastic the past two years, but this defense needs another cornerback to provide a dependable trio. Antonio Cromartie, Brandon Flowers, Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell are all names that will be mentioned in free agency – assuming the Cowboys want to spend that type of money. If not, the draft is always an option – potentially as high as the No. 27 pick.
By The Numbers:
- Interceptions are not the specialty of this cornerback crop. Carr has just six in three years with the team, with none of those coming in 2014. Scandrick tied a career high in 2014 with two, and he has just seven picks in 106 career games. Claiborne's game-saving pick in St. Louis last year was just the third of his career.
- Sterling Moore led the entire defense in passes defensed with 13. His 39 tackles also trailed only Carr, who had 54.
- Three of the Cowboys' corners – Scandrick, Moore and Patmon – are listed at 5-10, while Claiborne is listed at 5-11. Only Carr, who is listed at 6-0, reaches the six-foot mark.
- Claiborne is the only corner in the group with a high draft profile. Carr and Scandrick were fifth-round picks, taken three spots apart in 2008. Moore and Patmon were undrafted.