Dallas Cowboys News: Morris Claiborne's Health Will Stand in Way of Early Impact

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 14, 2012

July 30, 2012; Oxnard, CA, USA;      Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) goes through drills during opening day of training camp. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Morris Claiborne hasn't been 100 percent healthy as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, and it's hampering his ability to learn Rob Ryan's complicated defensive packages.

He was recovering from left wrist surgery when Cowboys training camp began, and he is now battling another minor injury.

Claiborne missed the Cowboys' preseason opener on Monday night with what ESPN Dallas reporter Todd Archer reported as a sprained MCL. The Cowboys may not mind Orlando Scandrick as Claiborne's replacement, but that doesn't change the facts.

Their first-round pick is only useful on the field. His injuries are not long term, but the hindrance to his development could be.

Let's not forget, this is the same player who scored a four out of 50 on the Wonderlic test prior to the draft. Whether you believe that he "blew it off" or not, it's still a major red flag.

Cornerback doesn't require the sharp mind of a quarterback, or anything like that, but you still have to understand the game itself. Claiborne has tremendous ball skills, and his spectacular college statistics leave no room for doubt concerning his talent, but the NFL is still an adjustment.

Plenty of players have left college as stars and failed to live up to "the hype." Mental adjustments are a major part of that, and they're tough to make while standing on the sidelines.

I'm sure Claiborne is picking up things from secondary coach Jerome Henderson by watching the first-team defense compete against the first-team offense in practice, but there is no substitute for strapping on the pads and hitting the field, especially for a rookie.

Claiborne will eventually shake off the injuries and take the field for the Cowboys, but he's already behind the eight-ball. When he was drafted, the Cowboys expected him to make an impact from Week 1.

Now, we have no idea where he will be at in terms of Ryan's playbook. On top of that, he's had next to no experience reading an NFL offense, even if it's just in preseason or practice.

His talent is undeniable, but success in the NFL requires more than that. It's hard to imagine that Claiborne won't catch up, but it's discouraging that he has to at this point.

The Cowboys need Claiborne on board this season in order to compete. Their secondary was an issue last season, and he's the cornerstone of their rebuilding effort in that area.

As you can see in the title picture Claiborne has gone through drills, but there is no substitute for real games played at real speed.