(Editor's Note: This is the 10th of an 11-part series examining and analyzing the main position groups for the Cowboys as they prepare for training camp. Today's piece focuses on the cornerbacks.)
What's the Deal?The Cowboys have a lot of money invested in a position that didn't produce much in 2013. Three of the top seven salaries on this roster belong to cornerbacks – Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. Carr signed a hefty free agent contract before the 2012 season, the same year Claiborne was drafted No. 6 overall. Scandrick signed an extension last fall during what was his best season to date. With that kind of investment in the position, the expectation for the secondary is better than last in the league. The pressure will be on all three players to help improve what was a woeful unit last year. Behind them, the Cowboys need to see what they have in last year's fourth round pick, B.W. Webb. The second-year defender is going to be one of several contenders for a roster spot, and it'll be on him to prove himself deserving.
Still Need to Find Out:How exactly is this pecking order going to shake out between the top three? Scandrick took Claiborne's starting job last year and didn't' give it back. Carr is widely considered the team's No. 1 cornerback, but struggled mightily down the stretch. Upon returning from injury, Claiborne acquitted himself well in the final few weeks of the season. How it all shakes out after a month of competition is anyone's guess. The Cowboys' coaches have said before that they consider all three players as starters, given the amount of time the defense will be spending in nickel formations. But who handles what job will be an issue to keep an eye on, with either Scandrick or Claiborne likely to wind up in the nickel job. [embedded_ad]
The top three corners on this team are a lock to make the final roster – that's a near-guarantee. The battle behind them is bound to be interesting, though. Five cornerbacks seems like a healthy number for the 53-man roster, which basically means there's a four-way fight for the final two spots. Webb was drafted relatively high and has a year of experience on several of his competitors, but his spot is by no means guaranteed. This will be Sterling Moore's fourth season in the pros, and you've got to like his chances against the rookies in the bunch
Ready to Breakout?
Is this the year Claiborne delivers on the hype – or at least stays on the field? He was widely lauded as the best defender on the draft board in 2012, and he has shown flashes of that talent. He played in just 10 of 16 games last year because of injuries, and he only started seven after Scandrick took his job in the starting lineup. If Claiborne is going to avoid the dreaded 'bust' label, then now seems like the time to step up and deliver on his draft status.* *
Scout's Eye: Position Battles: CornerbackThe corner that appears to have the most to lose in this group is Webb. Last season, I believe he was protected by where he was selected in the draft and the front office wanted to see him develop which is not an uncommon situation to see on all rosters around the league but now in his second season, he is going to have to performer better than Mitchell, Patmon and Phillips, if he wants to keep his spot on the roster.
To read Bryan Broaddus' full report, click here.
Last Time Out:
For a look back at how each cornerback performed in 2013, click here.