- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Morris Claiborne, the second-year cornerback for the Cowboys, says he’s not making as many plays as he did before because of a scheme change.
The Cowboys played man coverage in a 3-4 scheme last season and now are playing more zone in the 4-3.
Claiborne says his struggles are tied to that.
It sounds more like excuses.
"Now we're basically a zone team,” he said on his weekly ESPN Dallas radio show on 103.3 FM on Tuesday night. “You have to play within that zone. Everything is new to everybody. When guys come in and hit those big dig routes in between the zones, then of course the corner's there, so they're going to say, 'Oh, yeah, that's the corner.'
"It's still a transition. When we were in press, just faced up man-to-man, they only hit one ball on me. But overall, I think all my big plays come within the zone."
I’m no expert but Claiborne is struggling at corner right now. And I’m not in the minority here.
We’ll use this as a guide, only a guide mind you. Pro Football Focus said Claiborne allowed six receptions for 115 yards in the loss to the San Diego Chargers. On the season, PFF has Claiborne ranked 98th at cornerback allowing 15 catches for 272 yards.
Stats LLC., again, we’ll use this as a guide, has Claiborne getting burned 15 times this season, tied for the 17th most in the NFL. Bruce Carter, the linebacker, is tied for fifth having getting burned 17 times and allowing three touchdowns.
We’re not sure if these people are right in their grades of Claiborne, but it’s clear he’s not playing with the same confidence he had last season.
"I feel like it's high, but it's not where it needs to be to be able to play corner," Claiborne said. "We're not the type of team that we were last year. We're not assigned [receivers] and you go wherever he goes, you follow him wherever he goes, and that's your man. We're not in that. We don't do that anymore.”
Last season when Claiborne played in the 3-4 man-to-man scheme he had just one interception and was credited with eight pass breakups.
What a season!
This season, he’s got zero picks and one pass breakup. He’s playing hard and through a bad shoulder, that limits his ability to jam receivers and make tackles.
Then again this is what Stephen Jones, the executive vice president of the Cowboys, had to say about Claiborne on KRLD-FM on Monday: "I think it's time for the injury thing to leave the scene (with Claiborne). He needs to step up and make plays."
Claiborne has lost the starting job because of his shoulder injury to Orlando Scandrick. Yet, Claiborne’s on-field struggles might prevent him from regaining the gig again.
Coach Jason Garrett noted Claiborne needs to improve his techniques and play with more confidence and the man from LSU agrees.
It’s amazing Claiborne is resorting to these measures regarding his disappointing play. DeMarcus Ware also dealt with a scheme change. He’s got four sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. The scheme change has nothing to do with quarterbacks targeting Claiborne more than fellow corner Brandon Carr. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers attacked Carr on the first play of the game on Sunday and the pass fell incomplete. Rivers targeted Claiborne more than Carr after that.
Scheme has nothing to do with it.
NFL teams target the weakest links on the field.
“We've got to have him go out there and compete and make plays,” Jones said of Claiborne. “I think no one wants that more than Mo."