Since the day former LSU Cornerback Morris Claiborne joined the Dallas Cowboys, he's had a lot to live up to. That's the reality of the situation when the team that drafted you gives up a 2nd round selection just to pick you. And of course Jerry Jones might not have helped his cause by letting the world know how Claiborne had the highest CB ranking since some baseball player named Sanders (you might have heard of him).
So needless to say, with expectations through the roof, fans were a bit disappointed by the shiny new toy at corner last season. Morris finished with a pedestrian 55 tackles and 8 defensive passes, while only pulling down one interception (he did also manage two fumble recoveries, one of which turned him into a prancing ballerina….in a good way!). All offseason there was talk about how much of a playmaker Claiborne is, but no one really saw the plays being made on the field. In 2013, with a full NFL offseason under his belt, Claiborne looks ready to finally start making the impact he was drafted to make.
Claiborne spent the offseason putting on six pounds of muscle. He's been able to get into a routine, as opposed to last offseason when he was forced to battle a wrist injury that kept him out until training camp. Another major factor, according to both Claiborne and his Head Coach, is the level of comfort felt by Claiborne at the team facilities.
"I feel comfortable,” Claiborne said. “I feel different when I pull up here than when I did a year ago. Nothing is new to me. I expect everything… I’m just trying to get more comfortable and established in this system, so I can go out and play and have fun. I want to improve everything – more involved in tackling, covering guys – everything, period.”
“Your development from year one to year two is probably the biggest growth you’ll make as a player,” added Head Coach Jason Garrett, “It’s important you approach it that way. He has gotten bigger and stronger – he looks different physically…Now the confidence part, when you start playing football games is big; this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this – you’ve played a 16-game NFL season already. Now you come back and hopefully you’re more comfortable about the looks you’re going to see and you can take advantage of them.”
In new Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin's system, Claiborne will relied upon to press receivers into places they don't want to go. That extra six pounds of muscle will go a long ways to accomplishing that. So will getting to practice his trade against one of the league's budding stars, WR Dez Bryant. Kiffin has already preached an emphasis on turnovers, hoping to turn around a unit that tied for worst in the league with only 7 interceptions (three players had more by themselves). If Claiborne continues to stay healthy and put in the work necessary to succeed in the NFL, look for him to live up to his draft status in 2013.
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