For some reason, the NFL Network’s Heath Evans has been adamant in his criticism of the Dallas Cowboys and on several occasions has cited two key offseason misses. For the record, I understand and somewhat support his insistence that the Cowboys are missing some much needed attitude and physicality if they want to reach their goals of playing for a Super Bowl. However his rambling on about the signing of Brandon Carr instead of Cortland Finnegan who plays with much more attitude and fire has become nauseating.
May 23, 2012; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) stretches with Brandon Carr (39) during organized team activities at Dallas Cowboys headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
Furthermore, his babbling on about the Cowboys giving up a second rounder and moving to select Morris Claiborne instead of staying put and taking a more physical Dre Kirkpatrick is inherently flawed. Evans is as good of a representative as any exemplifying how the national media routinely misses in discussing the Dallas Cowboys.
Cortland Finnegan made a tremendous business decision when he decided to take a bite out of Andre Johnson. Their on field fight showed those unfamiliar with the corner just how nasty he can be. Before that fight, he was already known as a tenacious and borderline dirty corner but the fight sprung him onto the national scene and provided a nice base to launch what was a successful free agency campaign. I have to wonder if Evans would even be talking about Finnegan today without the fight with Andre Johnson.
What Evans is doing in his analysis is citing the most nasty and physical corner on the market but he is doing so blindly without thinking of who the best corner is. The Cowboys don’t need the nastiest corner; they just need a corner that is more physical, durable and aggressive than Terence Newman was. That is all. They are actually getting the best corner and getting more physical at the same time. With his logic, the Cowboys should go get T.O. if they are short on physical receivers. Or resign Brooking if they are short on leadership.
With what Rob Ryan intends to accomplish with the defense in 2012, Dallas could not afford to take a chance on Finnegan who is not a corner Ryan can indiscriminately rely on to have his side of the field covered. Whether in run support or in the air, the Cowboys corners will be put in position to be a last line of defense. At 6-0 200 pounds, Carr is as physical in run support as he is at the line of scrimmage with receivers. There is a reason Carr was the consensus #1 corner available in free agency and in contrast to Terence Newman, he has not missed a game in his four years of play.
Similarly, the debate about Kirkpatrick or Claiborne shows the same pattern. Kirkpatrick would appear to show more bite and attitude on the field. His physical play throughout Alabama’s championship run cannot be denied but he operated primarily in off coverage while Claiborne played more press coverage. Claiborne is not a more physical tackler than Kirkpatrick but he has a track record of being more physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage.
That being said, the larger point to be made and what Heath Evans is missing is that the Cowboys don’t need the most physical and nasty corner in the draft. They just need a corner that is more physical and has more attitude than Mike Jenkins. I think Claiborne coming from that defensive system at LSU under Les Miles has those traits over Jenkins in spades. It will be difficult for Claiborne to prove to be less durable than Jenkins. Jenkins stayed healthy when he played soft but could not stay on the field when he mixed it up and tried to be physical. Claiborne has played press corner at the highest collegiate level on the best defenses the NCAA has had to offer.
October 08, 2011; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide corner back Dre Kirkpatrick (21) warms up before the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 34-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-US PRESSWIRE
While Kirkpatrick is a great college corner, there is a consensus on Claiborne as the best corner and one of the draft’s top 5 players and once again Dallas got the best at the corner position while getting more physical, durable and a more aggressive attitude.
I give credit to Heath Evans for at least offering a bit more analysis towards who these Cowboys are and what deficiencies they seem to have. It’s a much deeper assessment than Romo can’t win the big one, Jones is too meddlesome or Garrett is in over his head. However, had he dug a little deeper, he would recognize that the Cowboys did address their deficiencies while also maximizing the talent level on the team. In these two offseason moves, the Dallas Cowboys hit it straight out of the park. For Evans it was a swing and a miss.