In his rookie season, Dallas Cowboys’ cornerback Morris Claiborne didn’t completely live up to the hype that was bestowed upon him prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. When the Cowboys traded up to the sixth spot from No. 13 to get Claiborne, it was as a great trade up by Jerry Jones, fulfilling a desperate need at the cornerback position.
But Claiborne struggled for the most part in his rookie year. He did tally the Cowboys’ first interception of 2012, but at times he looked confused in coverage.
You could probably attribute that, though, to the standard rookie learning curve.
Entering the 2013 season, however, Claiborne looks poised to become one of the game’s best at his position. Playing in what will be the first year in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme in Dallas, the former Louisiana State Tiger acknowledged to dallascowboys.com earlier this week the physical play that is required by cornerbacks in that system, and that he has put on six pounds of muscle this offseason to prepare for it, going from 187 to 193.
He says that he feels a lot better going into this season, and a lot more comfortable. This is Claiborne’s first full NFL offseason of preparation, unlike his first last summer when he underwent wrist surgery and suffered a MCL sprain which limited him in training camp. Naturally, the opportunity of having a full training camp to prepare will help.
It should definitely do him well.
Lauded coming out of college for his superior cover skills, speed, and playmaking ability, Claiborne has the tools to flourish in Kiffin’s defense and become one of the league’s top cornerbacks. In a system that requires constant press coverage, he has the physical style that suits the scheme, as well as great speed to latch on to receivers and the ability to run with them step for step on deep routes.
His press skills were most on display last season in the Cowboys’ Week 1 win over the New York Giants, where he and fellow starter Brandon Carr stifled the Giants’ receiving duo of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, holding them to a combined 10 catches for 96 yards in the 27-24 Cowboy win.
Many experts last spring projected him as the next great cover corner in the NFL, likening his skills to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Darrelle Revis.
With a season of learning under his belt, and coming into this upcoming season stronger, in better shape and more comfortable, Claiborne is due to make strides and become one of the league’s best cover corners along the lines of Revis.
Expect him to do just that.