2012 Dallas Cowboys: Is the Revamped Secondary Ready for Battle?
During this offseason, the Cowboys overhauled their secondary with a series of moves that was way overdue. The goal was to improve a unit that surrendered 244 yards per game, gave up a ton of big plays, endured countless breakdowns and at times looked rather clueless.
The Cowboys, via addition by subtraction, severed ties with players such as Terence Newman, Alan Ball, Abram Elam and Frank Walker. They were replaced by Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Brodney Pool and Matt Johnson. Claiborne and Carr were the crown jewels of this successful offseason and, with it, will come the expectations of becoming a top-five tandem.
But the offseason overhaul didn't come without a little controversy. The issue of what to do with Mike Jenkins seemed to dominate the headlines more than the excitement surrounding the acquisition of two stud cornerbacks. Jenkins, two years removed from a pro bowl and coming off an injury-riddled season, from which he's still rehabbing, was suddenly looking like the odd man out.
While the situation has somewhat settled down, the season opener is rapidly approaching and it's time for the secondary to get acquainted with one another and gel as a unit. The question now is whether Jenkins will be out on the field or on the PUP list. Despite the earlier controversy and his injury concerns, Jenkins will be an extremely valuable player for this defense. He just doesn't know that yet.
With a unit that boasts Carr, Claiborne, Jenkins and Scandrick as the top four cornerbacks, the expectations of the secondary are soaring. It could arguably be one of the best units in the NFL if they play to their potential. They Cowboys can confidently put these four players on the field at anytime and be able to guard the league's most elite wide receivers.
It's rather easy to look at this situation on paper and figuratively say that the cornerback position is a strength of this team. But are they ready to play to the level of those expectations and endure the battles that lie ahead?
They better be.
The list of receivers they will face this season will include usual NFC East foes Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant. The Washington Redskins added Pierre Garcon to their team and he certainly brings an element of speed to that offense.
They will also face the likes of Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Anquan Boldin. It's a daunting task, but the Cowboys will be better equipped to match up individually and handle spread offenses this time around as opposed to last season.
For a unit that gave up over 50 completions of 20 yards or more, the Cowboys will be looking to reverse that trend quickly in 2012. With Carr and Claiborne, they now have the ability to be more effective in press coverage, lock down receivers and aggressively make plays on the ball. Carr is just starting to establish himself as a premier corner and Claiborne is a rare and unique talent that was considered the best defensive player in the draft.
The Cowboys will need to get Jenkins back on the field and receptive to his new role, and they need an improved season from Orlando Scandrick. If they can accomplish that, then this unit can go to battle against any team in the NFL. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hold onto fourth-quarter leads and push this team to victory when the offense isn't quite clicking?
Cowboys fans haven't seen a group of cornerbacks like this is quite some time. Not only has it been the foundation of optimism heading into 2012, but it could be the strength of this team.
Will they gel? Will they live up to expectations? And will Morris Claiborne be worth the steep climb it took to draft him?
Absolutely. Not only is this unit improved, but it's ready for battle.
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