Cowboys: What Can Be Expected of Orlando Scandrick?

Jun 14, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick works out during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick works out during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Injury forced the Cowboys top cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, to miss the entire 2015 season. One year later, he’s ready to return, but what can reasonably be expected?

It was August 25th, 2015. Cowboys practice was going much like every other practice before it. Effort was high, energy was in the air, and expectations were through the roof.

The Cowboys just concluded a highly successful 12-4 campaign the season before. It was so close, it came one controversial play away from playing in the NFC Conference Championship game.

2015 was set be the season the Cowboys would reclaim glory.

One trivial play later, and the Cowboys lost their best defensive player for the entire season. Orlando Scandrick tore both his MCL and ACL and required season-ending surgery. And the Cowboys received a glimpse of things to come…

This season Orlando Scandrick returns to the Cowboys. And with him, the colossal expectations that graced the team this time last year. What can be expected of Orlando Scandrick himself?

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Let’s take a look…

Orlando Scandrick, 29, is entering his ninth season with the Dallas Cowboys. Hardly the spring chicken, Scandrick looks to overcome a catastrophic knee injury and reestablish himself as the Cowboys top cornerback.

Before the injury, Scandrick’s career was steadily trending in an upward direction.

Few will argue 2013 and 2014 were his best seasons as a pro. In those seasons he collected a combined 4 interceptions (more than doubling his career total of three), 21 pass deflections, 3 sacks, and 119 tackles.

In 2014, Pro Football Focus rated Scandrick as the 10th best CB in the entire NFL. That placed him ahead of highly-regarded CBs like Aqib Talib (16th) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (17th) that season and reaffirmed what we already knew – Scandy was a very good player.

Orlando Scandrick is unique because he’s a starter on the outside who moves in to play the slot when in nickel defense. Most of the NFL’s top CBs shy away from moving to the nickel (heck, Richard Sherman won’t even switch sides of the field) because of the difficulty it imposes.

Related Story: Cowboys: getting to the QB in 2016

Outside CBs have the benefit of the sideline when covering receivers. In the middle, there is no such luxury. Slot receivers (and TEs) have the ability to break in either direction. The advantage in man coverage will ALWAYS go to the receiver here.

Despite the unavoidable disadvantage, Scandrick accepts the challenge head-on, moving inside to play man, zone, or even blitz. Whatever Rod Marinelli dials up, Orlando Scandrick delivers. And no 2015 knee injury is going to keep Scandy from doing that all again in 2014.

"“I’ll be totally fine,” Scandrick said. “ I’ll see myself working my way into training camp and being full-go very, very soon”"

It will 13 months by the time Orlando returns to game action. That’s more than enough time to bounce back physically. Football IQ has never been his problem before and with the same coaching staff and same defensive philosophy, there’s no reason to think anything will change now.

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Orlando Scandrick understands the coverages. He’s been in this defense long enough to know every players role in the Cowboys’ secondary. He knows exactly what do different zones coverages, he knows how to play off-man and play chase, he knows how to play press and get physical.

What can be expected of Orlando Scandrick in 2016? Exactly what he brought the Cowboys two seasons before the injury.

He’ll likely be a starter on the outside who moves to the inside in nickel packages. He’s a willing tackler who may even get a sack or two as a blitzer. He’s going to give up receptions. Yup, let’s be fair. In 2014 opposing QBs completed over 74% of their passes against Scandrick. That’s what happens when you move inside.

He’s not going to be a ballhawk either. Even Scandrick knows this. Following the 2013 season, Scandrick had this to say about his performance…

"“…I need to focus on making plays that I can make. Start watching the tape in the offseason and I can think of games where I dropped interceptions: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia. These are plays where I’ve got to make the play.”"

Scandrick pulled in a total of four interceptions in 2013 and 2014. Compared to the zero that the two starting CBs (Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne) had in 2015, two INTs per season is pretty good. But compared to the rest of the starters in the NFL, two INTs are essentially the Mendoza Line.

With a career total of just seven INTs in seven seasons, it’s hard to see him suddenly becoming a highlight reel now – at the ripe age of 29.

But with all of that said, Orlando Scandrick is among the best in the league. He’s a tenacious fighter who inspires the defense. He’s never afraid of a challenge and will make receivers work for every inch of the field. He’s old school.

Orlando Scandrick isn’t the Savior for the defense in 2016, just like he wasn’t the reason for the troubles of 2015. But he’s a key cog in the machine and cornerstone player on a defensive unit lacking proven talent.

Next: What the Cowboys Must Do With Tyrone Crawford

Orlando Scandrick’s return is big but expectations need to be managed according to what he’s done in the past. He’s a player who needs to be appreciated for what he is and not what we wish he could be.

What to expect from Orlando Scandrick? Expect a damn good football player, that’s what.