As Dallas Cowboys fans, we all know the struggles cornerback Morris Claiborne has had in his first two years in Dallas. Those issues are only intensified by the fact the Cowboys traded up in the 2012 NFL Draft to select the highly-touted, ball-hawking athlete from LSU in the first round. Entering his third season, many believe this could be Claiborne’s final chance to prove himself in order to stay off the trading block in 2015. And apparently, NFL.com agrees.
In an article entitled The heat is on: Guys who must perform in 2014, NFL Media columnist Adam Schein listed Claiborne as one of nine NFL Players who need to step up their game in the upcoming regular season. Here’s what Schein had to say about the latest Cowboy on the hot seat:
"“When Claiborne was coming out of college, I thought he was going to be fantastic. So did the Cowboys, who traded up to take him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s been adequate, at best, and most certainly not an elite corner. In his first two NFL seasons, Claiborne’s play has been spotty and he’s battled a bevy of injuries. Now, to be fair, I should note that Dallas’ defense was a complete mess last season, as I touched on earlier this week. I fault former coordinator Monte Kiffin. Cowboys COO Stephen Jones understandably pointed a finger at the front seven on my SiriusXM Radio show, “Schein on Sports.” But now, there’s a new coordinator and new players up front. This defense, which ranked 30th against the pass, can significantly improve in 2014, but Claiborne has to take that next step. I expect it to happen.”"
Since being drafted sixth overall in 2012, Claiborne has amassed 81 total tackles, 14 passes defended and only two interceptions. Coming out of college, Dallas scouts had Mo ranked with the highest cornerback grade since Deion Sanders. While at LSU, Claiborne recorded 95 tackles, 12 pass breakups and 11 interceptions in three years. He was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back his junior year.
But injuries have plagued Claiborne as a member of the Cowboys. He entered the NFL recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist, limiting his initial offseason training. Combine that fact with his alleged scoring of a four on his Wonderlic test meant Claiborne was behind the developmental eight-ball from the very beginning. During his rookie training camp, Claiborne missed several practices due to a “minor” MCL sprain. It was at that time the Cowboys started to question his mental toughness and his ability to play through pain.
Knee issues followed Claiborne throughout his rookie campaign. He also suffered a concussion in mid-December in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. During the 2013 offseason, Claiborne committed to beefing up his injury-prone frame. He added eight pounds of muscle in anticipation of new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s scheme. But once again, a minor knee issue caused Claiborne to miss three weeks of training camp. But it was a hamstring injury that caused him to miss six games last season. When Mo did play, he struggled with a shoulder injury and eventually lost his starting role to veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
This offseason, Claiborne has had both shoulder and finger surgery. He claims to be feeling great and should be ready in time to participate in all of the Cowboys offseason programs. Based on past history, I wouldn’t hold your breath. If Claiborne can actually have one full, uninterrupted offseason of training, it’ll probably do wonders for his regular season game.