Dallas Cowboys: The silver lining from Orlando Scandrick’s fall
By Brad Austin
When the Dallas Cowboys’ premiere cornerback was lost to an ACL/MCL injury for the season on Tuesday, much more than one position regressed.
Orlando Scandrick was a critical part of the Cowboys defense. He was the sole corner without question marks, a symbol of consistency in an uncertain secondary, and a defensive leader.
More from The Landry Hat
- 3 ways Cowboys’ Dak Prescott can have a bounce-back season in 2023
- Cowboys News: Dallas sets pre-draft visit with potential Dalton Schultz upgrade
- NFL executives heaping praise on offseason is uncharted territory for Cowboys
- 3 free agent signings from NFC East rivals that left Cowboys fans laughing
- Cowboys News: Brandin Cooks sends flattering message to CeeDee Lamb, Stephon Gilmore
This offseason the Cowboys even tinkered with swapping sides between he and fellow starting corner Brandon Carr.
The idea was to flip their best cover man to the left side, thus shadowing the most dangerous opposing receiver.
Ultimately coaches felt more comfortable with the players remaining on their original side with the most experience, yet the idea spoke volumes of his value.
While losing Scandrick is a blow to the right outside corner position, it can be relatively numbed. Either first round draft pick Byron Jones or former first rounder Morris Claiborne will claim the spot. Both have the ability to close the flood gates assuming the pass rush is much improved as expected.
PATMON’S UPHILL SLOT BATTLE
The harsh injury hurts the Dallas defense most at the slot corner position. While Scandrick was a quality outside corner, his ability handling the slot was Pro Bowl level. Covering the slot receiver in the NFL is the most daunting task in the secondary.
Dallas plans to give second year corner Tyler Patmon first crack as the slot defender. While Patmon has shown respectable progress from a rocky rookie showing, this talent regression will hurt more than most realize.
The NFC East is loaded with blistering slot weapons like Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. in New York. Jordan Matthews in Philadelphia is due for a breakout season. Even Washington will move Pierre Garcon inside some for more touches.
The Cowboys liked their odds with Scandrick blanketing any of the players above in the slot. Patmon will find himself a victim to those burners a little too often for comfort.
Dallas will need a forceful pass rush to help the youngster out, especially from the middle. Slot targets often occur within short to medium yardage, so abrupt inside pressure does the most damage disrupting a quick release.
Luckily, the Cowboys nickel pass rush projects to be ferocious after Week 4. Greg Hardy will return and pair with Tyrone Crawford to torment inside blockers. While Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence will pound the corners.
BLACK CLOUD BRINGS SILVER LINING
On to the indirect silver lining from losing a consistent defensive presence like Scandrick. The one positive following the tragic loss is the 12-4 Cowboys will now shed their hidden overconfidence and premature assumptions of contention.
Just like losing star linebacker Sean Lee before the 2014 season, the Cowboys now face potential destruction to an optimistic defensive resurgence. Harsh trials with sure negative consequences lead to one critical action…circling the wagons.
Before 2014 this team was mostly expected to fall short and land somewhere near 9-7. In an inspiring effort, the Cowboys closed their ranks and decided only they will determine their fate as a collective force.
Following the destructive loss of Scandrick, the voices of impending demise have begun to creep back in the mainstream. The prematurely crowned Super Bowl contenders are now hearing predictions of second best in their own division.
The blow of losing a constant like Scandrick, at a position that can make or break a victory on one deep pass, should serve as a wake-up call that removes entitlement.
The “next man up” strategy must become “all men up”. The entire defense must raise their play to fulfill expectations. Coaches must push the replacements to another level. Even the scouting department must scour the wire for corner and safety help.
Without Scandrick, Dallas remains a more talented team than 2014. Yet the only way to achieve more success now is to conjure that same underdog will to win.
The secondary may not be as consistent as projected, but resuming the “backs against the wall” mentality will make Dallas a more focused, unified, and resilient team.
Next: It's time this Cowboys running back got his first real start