Cowboys’ Morris Claiborne: Breakout or Lost Cause?


Few Cowboys’ draft picks have disappointed in the way Morris Claiborne has since getting picked sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. But is the Cowboys’ biggest recent bust-to-date a lost cause, or on the cusp of breaking out?

As all Cowboys fans know, Morris Claiborne was once considered the defensive jewel of the draft. He was the highest rated defensive player entering the 2012 Draft, and he was called by multiple scouts, “the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders.” It’s no bombshell to say Morris Claiborne has failed miserably in living up to these expectations.

The man dubbed Pick 6 (a play of words referencing his draft position and the name for a TD-returned interception) didn’t live up to the most modest of expectations, and has ranked as one of the worst CBs in the NFL over his injury-plagued 3 year career.

But what if the biggest Cowboys bust isn’t a bust at all? What if the aforementioned injuries are what have held him back? What if all he needs is his health and a pass-rush to make a breakout possible?

There is no question Morris Claiborne has talent. Anyone who saw his college tape will swear by his abilities, but things blocked his path to success in the NFL. The pass rush has been poor, his effort has been questionable, injuries have slowed him, practice time has been almost non-existent, and confidence has been in the toilet.

Of these excuses, some are bad luck, some are a team issue, and some rest solely on Morris Claiborne. Now, in the last year of his contract, Morris needs to finally realize a portion of his potential, or his future as an NFL player could be in question.

The important thing to keep in mind is that while he has been abysmal for 90% of his snaps, he has, at moments, flashed the talent that once made him the consensus pick for the top defensive player in the 2012 draft. had this to say about Claiborne leading up to the draft:

"“Claiborne is an aggressive cover man who likes to use his tall frame and long arms to get in receivers’ faces, shock them at the line of scrimmage and disrupt their timing. When he punches, he makes his presence felt. He can run with his back to the ball at the receiver’s hip using a press/bail technique and looks natural running with his man in-phase while still keeping an eye on the ball. Claiborne is such a gifted athlete with uncommon body control that he runs with his man fluidly up and down the field and still be able to break off at any time and get involved in plays coming across him. As a zone defender, he is simply an explosive athlete with length and can keep plays in front of him and react quick enough to meet the man at the ball.”"

To read the complete draft profile click here.

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This isn’t an isolated opinion either. Virtually every creditable scout agreed. Go back and watch if you want but the tape doesn’t lie — Morris Claiborne was once awesome. He still possess those same skills that made him great once before, if he can find a way to get healthy, practice, and build confidence, he may have a chance. If the Cowboys can deliver a pass rush that would help even more.

Morris Claiborne still faces a tough road ahead as he continues to rehab from a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. The rehab is hard, but head coach Jason Garrett told Dallas Morning News that things are going well.

"He’s done an excellent job in his rehab,” said Garrett. “He’s done a lot of work on the field, and he’s moving around better. He’s getting stronger, physically stronger, up top, but also in his lower body. I think he’s responding well with that. He’s a little bit in that category where we start him slowly in the football part of it, keep him out of some of the competitive situations until he gets his feet underneath him.”"

The Cowboys declined Morris Claiborne’s fifth year option, making him a free agent after the 2015 season. Morris will be motivated like never before, but it all comes down to practice time. Morris needs to stay on schedule so he can participate in training camp. He’s never been healthy enough to have accomplished this feat and it’s shown in his game. If Morris can practice and grow confidence, he may have a shot at shedding that “Bust” label.

While the pass-rush looks vastly improved on paper, it’s still wild speculation at this point. Morris has to fix Morris or he may be in for another embarrassing season. But that’s the beauty of sport and competition. The story has yet to be fully written, and Morris possesses the skills to change the direction.

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