Is Morris Claiborne Living Up to Top 10 Pick Status for Dallas Cowboys?
To improve their defense. Claiborne was considered the best defensive prospect in the draft, and if there's one thing the Dallas Cowboys needed, it was defense.
Last season, the Cowboys finished 14th in overall defense and 16th in points allowed, which isn't terrible but was the most oft-repeated reason why the Dallas Cowboys finished at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Dallas's secondary was singled out as an issue, as they had finished 20th in yards allowed in 2011.
Enter Morris Claiborne from LSU, whom the Cowboys were able to acquire by trading their first and second round picks to the St. Louis Rams.
This season the Cowboys' defense has improved so far to eighth in the league in total defense and seventh in pass defense.
But how much of this does this have to do with Claiborne? Has his play been enough to merit his top-10 draft status?
Claiborne has only one interception and 27 tackles this season. But he has struggled at times, like in Week 10 against Philadelphia when he was called for two offsides penalties, two defensive holding penalties, and a pass interference.
Head coach Jason Garrett, however, feels these penalties were as much a product of the Eagles' aggressiveness as it was Claiborne's inexperience, stating in his press conference (via Dallas Morning News):
The way their receivers were coming off the football, they were coming off really aggressive, so there was some initial contact he was having to deal with. He was trying to deal with that at the line of scrimmage as well. Sometimes you want to beat them to the punch. In each of the cases he got called for the defensive holding or for being offsides. It’s a good learning experience for him and I thought he did a good job, ironically enough of fighting through that stuff.
To Claiborne's credit, he did record five tackles for the afternoon, and as a whole he has helped to improve the Cowboys' defense.
In an ironic twist, it's the turnover-prone offense that has struggled for the Cowboys. But as for Claiborne, despite some rookie growing pains, he's played alright for them. The jury is out as to whether he was worth the price (two draft picks), but right now he seems to be on the right track.
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