By: Mark Lane (@therealmarklane)
On Jan. 15 the Dallas Cowboys will host their first home divisional playoff game since 2007. Every Cowboys fan can recall with a grimace the results of that fateful playoff day. Even the Dallas front office can, which is why the Cowboys have been very “deliberate” — a Jason Garrett word — with their dinged up players.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne is one of those guys. The former first-round pick from 2012 played seven games for Dallas before being sidelined in the Oct. 30 showdown with the Eagles with a groin injury.
But isn’t that always the way with Mo? He gets hurt. He’s hardly available. He’s never made a Pro Bowl. He’s another Jerry Jones bust. Right?
In the seven games Claiborne played, the Cowboys didn’t give up 100 yards to a receiver. And recall that the likes of Odell Beckham, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, A.J. Green, and Jordy Nelson played against this Cowboys secondary.
And do you know how many touchdowns those five Pro Bowl receivers scored against Dallas? The same number of Lombardi Trophies that sit in the Philadelphia Eagles’ trophy case.
In Claiborne’s absence, the Cowboys secondary has given up three 100-yard receivers. Furthermore, big-name receivers such as Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, Baltimore’s Steve Smith, Washington’s DeSean Jackson, and New York’s Beckham did what their fantasy owners expected and each scored touchdowns.
While it is “any given Sunday,” or Saturday night at 7:25 p.m. Central in this case, Seattle is probably going to beat Detroit. Therefore, the Chance card in the Monopoly game called the NFL Playoffs to go to Dallas will be handed out after the Giants-Packers game Sunday. How has Claiborne done against the Packers and Giants’ number one receivers in their careers?
It is true Nelson and Claiborne have yet to face each other. However, no Packers receiver has surpassed 100 yards in the games Claiborne has played. Nelson has played two games with Claiborne gone and averages four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Claiborne has faced Beckham three times and limited him to an average of four catches for 51 yards. When the cat Mo is gone, the mouse ODB goes for six catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns on average.
So, the big question is what’s the status on Claiborne, this key cog in shutting down the elite receivers Dallas will face in the playoffs?
“Hopefully, we can step it up next week so I can get back to the field,” Claiborne said Wednesday in a media session, according to Charean Williams of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Claiborne told Fox Sports Texarkana back on Dec. 5 that he would be ready to go against Tampa Bay on Dec. 18 or Detroit the following week on Dec. 26. However, Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones said Claiborne the team would “use our head” when it came to putting Claiborne back in action.
“From the reports I’m getting and how he’s responding to stepped-up regime that he’s having which is more work, which means more soreness, which means more work, which means less soreness,” Jones told Dallas-Fort Worth’s 105.3 The Fan on Dec. 23. “You go through that. I think we just keep monitoring and use our head because he’s going to be a tremendous boost when he comes back healthy and we can get him sharp and get his edge so to speak.
“If we can have that happen with the season he was having this year, it will be a big boost for our defense.”
And the “big boost” is being able to lock down number one receivers that face the Cowboys in the postseason.
“It’s hard when that’s your teammates out there,” Claiborne said. “Those guys you go to war with, and when you can’t be out there with them, it hurts. But it also motivates you. It also takes you to a place where you almost just do everything in your power to work as hard as you work to get back to those guys and try to prevent it.”
Claiborne is expected to return to practice Thursday. If he can’t go, Dallas has another week to get their best cornerback ready for Jan. 15.