Brandon Carr is tending to his family after the death of his mother and will not get to training camp until after Thursday’s preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers. Morris Claiborne has missed the last three days of practice with tendinitis.
Scandrick, entering his eighth season, finally has what he has wanted since coming to the Cowboys: the chance to show he is their best cornerback.
He has outlasted 2008 first-round pick Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman, who signed a lucrative extension Scandrick’s rookie year. He kept Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, on the sub packages for most of last season. When Carr struggled against Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon last December, Scandrick took over the assignment on his own.
During Sunday’s practice, Scandrick followed Dez Bryant all over the field. That was by design. His design.
“I mean it’s 6,000 fans out here,” Scandrick said after practice. “He ain’t going to come out here and just enamor the crowd at the expense of our defense. That was something I was planning on doing anyway. Coach told me (Sunday) and (Saturday) I did it on my own.”
It didn’t all go smoothly. Bryant beat him for touchdowns in the red zone and on a short catch-and-run. Scandrick forced a Tony Romo incompletion and broke up a back shoulder throw near the goal line in a span of three plays. In red-zone drills, he forced Romo to throw out of bounds to Bryant in the corner of the end zone.
All the while Scandrick and Bryant barked at each other.
“They go at it every day,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Every single day, they go at it in one-on-ones and seven-on-seven and in team situations. I know they have a healthy respect for each other, and that’s what you want on your football team -- you want your best players competing hard.”
Bryant might have loved it more than most.
“Scandrick is a dog,” Bryant said. “A lot of those corners are feeding off of him. They love him. I love him. He’s an animal.”
Scandrick ended the first-team drills with a leaping interception of what Romo hoped was a throw away. Using all of his 5-foot-10-inch frame, Scandrick tipped the ball in the air, came down with the pick and quickly slid to the ground to end the offense’s threat.
“Man, I’m just out here trying to play,” Scandrick said. “I genuinely want to win and I just want to reach my full potential and showcase my God-given talent.”
The Cowboys signed Scandrick to a two-year extension late last season. He had a career-high two interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He brings added value for his work in the slot as the nickel cornerback. He is also an adept blitzer off the edge with 8.5 sacks in his career, which is more than 13 of the 18 defensive linemen on the current 90-man roster.
But Scandrick knows cornerbacks are measured by interceptions.
“That’s the only thing I feel I’ve been missing from my game,” Scandrick said. “The only thing. The only thing that has separated me from just being that above-average guy and being an elite guy is going and getting the ball.”