Dallas Cowboys Absolutely Must Change Cornerback Personnel for 2012

By Jeric Griffin

To say the Dallas Cowboys’ secondary is horrendous is an understatement. Dallas has given up 241 passing yards per game this season, and a bunch of them went to no-name quarterbacks who looked like Peyton Manning on the field shredding the Cowboys’ pass defense. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is an excellent coach, but he can’t keep dragging incapable players along to disappointing finishes.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to step up and make some moves in the upcoming offseason. That’s not to say Dallas’ season is over; the Cowboys can win the NFC East by beating the New York Giants on New Year’s Day. However, Dallas desperately needs new cornerbacks for 2012 and beyond. That’s a fact regardless if the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year.

You won’t find a bigger Terence Newman fan than me. However, I have no problem saying it’s time for Jones to send him on his way. Thanks for the years, but this team has to improve at cornerback to contend in the playoffs.

Newman’s lingering groin injury that’s plagued him since 2008 just isn’t getting better. No matter how many times he rehabs and says he’s healthy, he continually gets beat, especially at the end of games. That points directly to that injury. It worsens with age and that also affects his conditioning.

For whatever reason, Newman especially has trouble defending out and comeback routes. He always lags on the cut by the receiver and then sits and waits to make the tackle after the catch. This stems from the inability to sink his hips and change direction laterally. Once again, that groin injury is killing him.

Orlando Scandrick has not lived up to the new contract Jones awarded him in the preseason. He’s arguably a decent No. 3 option, but not for the kind of money the Cowboys are paying him. With Newman and fellow corner Mike Jenkins both so injury-prone, Scandrick has to be more reliable since he’s often called upon to start.

Alan Ball is worthless; he constantly gets beat in man coverage and has no clue what to do in zone coverage. Giants receivers were open 20 yards past the entire secondary twice in Dallas’ last game against New York and both times Ball was the culprit. First, Ball bit on a short route in Cover 3 and Mario Manningham could have stood on his head and caught the touchdown pass deep downfield. The second time, Ball got beat by Hakeem Nicks in Cover 3 to set up the Giants’ first offensive points of the game.

The only Cowboys cornerback to play worth a darn this year is Jenkins. After a rough 2010 campaign, Jenkins has battled injuries all throughout this season and done a better job than any of his fellow corners with one arm.

When healthy, Jenkins is one of the top 10 man coverage corners in the league. He likes to play bump-and-run football, but Jenkins’ shoulder injury prohibits him from effectively jamming opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. The fourth-year pro will be the cornerstone of the Cowboys’ secondary for the foreseeable future assuming Jones signs him to an extension sometime during the 2012 season.

Newman’s contract goes through 2014 with him $8 million this season and then a little over $6 million in 2012, $7.6 million in 2013 and $7.5 in 2014. Jones signed him to that big contract three months before his groin injury in 2008, an extremely unlucky move that should have paid dividends.

Dallas’ only options are to cut Newman and accept the cap penalties and/or part of his remaining contract or trade him. The latter is highly unlikely unless Newman agrees to a pay cut with a suitor.

Jones irrationally signed Scandrick to a six-year, $28.2 million extension in August, which means Dallas is stuck with the 24-year-old unless the Cowboys’ stubborn owner admits he was wrong and cuts or trades Scandrick.

Ryan likes Scandrick, but it can’t be because of his play on the field. Unless he starts living up to his contract, it would greatly behoove the Cowboys to look for his replacement.

Fortunately, Ball was only signed to a 1-year deal this past offseason, so he will be looking for work in January. Jones would be nuts to re-sign him again after this disastrous season. So the next question is who can the Cowboys bring in to replace all these under-achieving cornerbacks?

Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin

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