Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr says Morris Claiborne “held his own” during his rookie season. Claiborne was the No. 1 defensive player on the Cowboys’ draft board. The franchise showed their commitment by trading up and drafting the cornerback with the sixth overall selection.
Claiborne, who finished with one interception, eight passes defended and 55 tackles, didn’t experience a smooth transition from college to the pros. He missed all of rookie mini-camp, organized team activities and mini-camp because of a surgically repaired left wrist. The LSU standout then missed some of training camp with a left knee injury and one regular season game with a concussion.
Carr, a five-year veteran, talked on Friday about how much Claiborne can improve in his second year with a full offseason under his belt.
“It’s a full offseason for him to get better in the classroom and on the field,” Carr said after reading to children for a United Way event at Edward Titche Elementary School in Dallas. “His confidence was already soaring as the season was coming to an end, so he needs to continue to bring that each week.”
Claiborne’s progression will also hinge on how quickly he can adapt to a new defensive scheme. Carr, who signed with the Cowboys last March, said Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 alignment “kind of caters to what they brought us in to do.”
Carr played in a similar system during his four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“At the end of the day it’s going to turn into man-to-man,” Carr said. “You just have to have the mindset that you’re going to shut down your side of the field. I talked to Claiborne and we’re both on the same page. The coaches seem pretty enthused with the game plan that we’re going to be bringing to the games. It’s just all about us going out there and getting repetitions and getting better as a team.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for all of the Cowboys’ cornerbacks will be preparing to make more tackles at the line of scrimmage.
“They already told us to pretty much get ready for 16 weeks of being as physical as you can be,” Carr said. “Not only disrupting the timing of the receivers but also when our number is called to come up and stop the run and come up and tackle.
“That’s what corners were doing in the playoffs. That’s what secondaries are doing, stopping those big runs and at the same time still covering. So it’s going to take all 11 guys this year to get the job done and we finally see that now.”
An increased emphasis on tackling running backs likely means Claiborne, 5-11, 185 pounds, will need to add some weight.
Carr, who is 6-0, 210 pounds, said he is already at his desired size.
“I’ve played five years now with this weight,” Carr said. “It’s just that our mentality is going to change this year. It’s just all 11 guys go out and dictate the flow of the game. Defense is supposed to be the aggressors and the ones making you make a decision out there, so that’s what we got to get back to.”