LONGVIEW, Texas – As local reporters gathered around Morris Claiborne before his on court performance at “Ballin with the Boys” at Lobo Coliseum, the Cowboys first round selection in 2012 remained laconic on the subject of whether 2014 was a make or break year for him.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I’m ready to go,” Claiborne declared.
High expectations have ridden upon Morris Claiborne’s shoulders since his drafting. Not only did the Cowboys surrender their first and second round selections in the 2012 draft to take him, but Cowboys scouts, according to owner Jerry Jones, graded him as high as Deion Sanders. In the beginning, Claiborne handled the expectations well with words. However, upon entering his third season, Claiborne has two interceptions, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and 14 passes defended in his career. Not only that, but the former LSU cornerback has only started in 22 out of the possible 32 games in his career.
Not only does the “bust” risk being his epithet, but his team has to recover from the unofficial label of being the worst defense in the league in 2013. Claiborne believes there is only one solution to remedying this problem.
“Go out and compete. Play at a high level that we’re known to play at. We just have to go put it on the field.”
The Dallas Cowboys brain trust has been tinkering this season with the coaching staff and front office to find ways to cultivate high levels of play. Whether it is handing the keys to Will McClay to drive the Cowboys draft or slide defensive line coach Rod Marinelli into the defensive coordinator role, the Cowboys have been trying to improve the team from within.
While the final grading of the promotion of McClay to assistant director of player personnel will take a couple of years, the results for Rod Marinelli’s promotion may be more immediate. Already, the 64 year-old is having an impact on the whole unit.
“He keeps us fired up,” Claiborne described. “He’s an older guy, but he’s always upbeat, up tempo. We feed off that energy.”
One of the talks Marinelli has had with the defense already, according to Claiborne, is playing more man coverage as opposed to zone coverage. While the Tampa 2 is the name of the scheme, the Cowboys are looking to run more of what the Seattle Seahawks do in having their corners play man coverage and not much zone. Playing such a scheme favors the strengths of Claiborne and his associate in Brandon Carr.