By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys defense struggled in their third game of the 2014 NFL season, giving up over 300 passing yards to St. Louis Rams’ rookie quarterback Austin Davis. After looking decent over the first two weeks of the NFL season, they really struggled to stop the big plays this week. However, the defense fought hard at the end and actually ended up saving the day with two key interceptions at the end of the game. Morris Claiborne contributed one of those interceptions, but it may not be enough to save his starting job.
The Cowboys needed to stop the Rams at the end of the game, and it was Claiborne’s very impressive interception that allowed Tony Romo to return to the field one last time for the victory formation. It seemed like a redemptive moment for the oft-maligned cornerback, but the fact is that it was just one play in a game full of blown coverages and lazy play.
One interception doesn’t even the scale after Claiborne gave up a 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 38-yard big pass play in the third quarter. When the Rams scored a big touchdown in the fourth quarter to close the gap to three points, Claiborne was the closest defender to the receiver, who caught the touchdown pass. It was a tough day for the former first round draft pick.
The fact is that the Dallas Cowboys traded their 14th pick and a second round pick in 2012 to move up to draft Morris Claiborne. They expected him to be their next big shut-down cornerback after a successful college career at LSU. He never lived up to his billing. He has been injured one too many times over his career and, when healthy, has never shut down receivers like advertised.
Sunday was just the latest example, as he was responsible for Dallas fighting from behind for much of the game. Orlando Scandrick missed the first two games of the 2014 NFL season after a drug suspension that was vacated last week. Scandrick returned and played as a starter on Sunday. Brandon Carr is the other starter, the Cowboys big money cornerback.
While that leaves Claiborne as the nickel corner, much like he played in 2013, there is now another name to add to the list. Sterling Moore started in place of Scandrick for the first two weeks and played great. Moore has 10 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble so far this season. He has more tackles than any other cornerback and has proven that he deserves playing time as well.
That could mark the end of Claiborne’s role for the Dallas Cowboys, especially if he continues to make mental errors like he did against the Rams. After two seasons of underwhelming play, especially for a former first round draft pick, Morris Claiborne won’t get many more opportunities.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.