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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Keeping an eye on Cowboys cornerbacks

By Dan Graziano

With minicamps opening around the NFC East this week, teams are getting a chance to see all of their players on the field together. For the Dallas Cowboys, the position of greatest interest is likely their overhauled cornerback corps. So ESPNDallas.com is taking a look at pretty much everyone in that mix.

Tim MacMahon writes on Brandon Carr as a lunch-pail guy who's had to work his tail off for everything he's ever achieved. Herman Edwards, a former coach of Carr's, tells Tim that he's "not the stock market. He's not going to be up and down. He's one guy you don't have to worry about."

Calvin Watkins writes on Mike Jenkins, who wants out of Dallas but will report to mandatory minicamp this week and, apparently, learn how to play the slot corner position.

And Calvin also writes of the difficulty of making an impact at cornerback as a rookie, and the Cowboys' need for Morris Claiborne to do just that if they're going to have success.

The Cowboys' ideal situation appears to be that Carr and Claiborne are the Week 1 starters with Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick splitting time as the slot corner. But they have the ability to hedge. If Claiborne is slow coming back from his wrist injury, or slow to adjust to the speed of the pro game, they can start Jenkins and Carr on the outside while Claiborne gets ready. And if that happens, they can use Jenkins in the slot in practice while getting Claiborne the reps he needs to get on the outside. It's an imperfect comparison, obviously, but remember that Eagles 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins didn't start at guard Week 1 last year but was the starter by the second half.

Personally, I think Claiborne will be fine. I'd expect growing pains, but nothing that isn't overcome by the immediate impact his raw talent will bring. The point, though, is that the Cowboys want and need to be deep at this position that cost them so much last year. With minicamp opening, we may start to get some sense of their plans. Claiborne won't be on the field this week, but he'll be there learning the defense with the rest of the guys. And we'll get a chance to find out just how much of a stink Jenkins plans to make about his contract status and reduced role. I'm still not sold on the idea that the revamped secondary will help the pass rush be better, and I think they should have addressed some issues up front. But assuming Claiborne does make it back on schedule and Jenkins shows up and plays, the Cowboys' plans to attack their biggest problem with depth appears to be on track.