Morris Claiborne didn't exactly have the most ceremonious entrance into the NFL after being the sixth overall pick in the draft. Wrist and knee injuries curtailed his OTAs and training camp, but he displayed his ability in limited playing time. Now, with the regular season literally minutes away, his debut could have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
In recent matchups, both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have made the Cowboys pay in a big way while exposing a major weakness in the defense. But with Claiborne in the fold with Brandon Carr, that's supposed to change, right?
Gone are Frank Walker, Terrance Newman and Alan Ball, so this secondary has nowhere to go but up when they face the defending champions. Although Claiborne only appeared in two preseason games, he wasn't tested that much by opposing quarterbacks. Eli Manning will change that in a hurry and hopefully Mr. Claiborne has been doing his homework.
Typically, when a team moves up to select a player like Claiborne, the immediate impact needs to be felt to justify the pick. It's almost as though Claiborne is not subject to the same type of learning curve of a normal rookie, but that's what happens when a fan base is starving for good cornerback play.
Any extra time that Claiborne had to himself while he was getting healthy needed to be in the film room. It's what all the great ones do and it's how the good ones became great. If he's able to pick up the tendencies of Cruz, Nicks and even Ramses Barden for that matter, it will give the Cowboys that much more of an edge. That's how this rookie could impact this game.
The Cowboys don't need to remind themselves of what transpired during last year's season finale, but let's stroll down memory lane. Last I checked, Victor Cruz took a little out pattern for a 74-yard scamper down the sidelines. Nicks was just as effective in that game, and collectively, they torched the Cowboys for 11 catches, 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If that wasn't vomit inducing enough, I'm sure the taste in the players' mouths is worse.
For the Cowboys, this game is the ultimate shot at redemption. From last year's losses, to the John Mara salary-cap debacle and to the trash talking, this team has an opportunity to right a lot of wrongs for themselves, the franchise and the fans.
Morris Claiborne will be performing on one of the biggest stages in all of pro sports. But his background from playing in the SEC and on similar big stages will be counted on to keep Eli Manning's collection of weaponry in check. The Giants will want to continue with what gave them success during their championship run last year and the foundation of that was the passing game.
The Dallas Cowboys virtually built their entire offseason strategy on trying to stop the Giants and other high-powered passing attacks. It was the basis for the Carr signing and the decision to move up and select Claiborne. The Cowboys will always count on veterans like Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware, but Claiborne could have a major impact on the outcome of this game.
If he can showcase his talent and perform with the skill level that he's capable of then Eli Manning will have to look in other directions that maybe he didn't want to. If Claiborne cannot perform his task, it would be logical to assume that Manning will fire missile after missile in his direction, which would eventually lead to big plays in the running game.
Don't underestimate the significance that Morris Claiborne could have on this game. He has the ability, the skill and the pedigree to get the job done. He'll be a marked man in this contest, but the question is will he emerge victorious or will he be the victim?
We're minutes away from finding out what type of impact this rookie will have.