IRVING – Citing the difficulty of playing cornerback in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, owner Jerry Jones and others in the organization continue to preach patience when it comes to struggling second-year pro Morris Claiborne.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers picked on the sixth overall pick of the 2012 draft repeatedly in Sunday’s 30-21 win over the Cowboys. Rivers finished with 401 yards and three touchdowns on 35-of-42 accuracy, including a 31-yard strike to rookie Keenan Allen on third-and-long early in the game that victimized Claiborne and set the tone for the day.
Allen finished with five catches for 80 yards, most of which came against Claiborne, who termed his day “frustrating.”
“They hit a couple of plays all over the field,” said Claiborne, who also gave up a 28-yard catch, “but obviously they found more over there on the right side.”
Orlando Scandrick has started the last three games after Claiborne dislocated a shoulder in the opener. Team vice president Stephen Jones suggested the injury has nothing to do with Claiborne’s poor play.
“It’s time for the injury thing to leave the scene, Jones told Dallas’ KRLD-FM on Monday. “He needs to step up and make plays. I think he will.”
On Tuesday, Jerry Jones was asked about Claiborne during his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM.
“He’s just got to get his confidence up,” the owner said. “We know what kind of player he is, what kind of athlete he is.”
Like the Joneses, Garrett believes a dip in confidence plagues Claiborne, who Pro Football Focus ranks 99th out of 101 corners who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.
But the coach pointed out that poor technique is also a factor in the former LSU standout’s decline.
“It’s a challenging position,” Garrett said. “You’re out there on an island and your best friend is your technique. Your best friend is the system, and oftentimes a young player like him is inconsistent in how he’s using his technique and his belief in the system.”
Garrett said young pro corners are often surprised to learn they can’t rely solely on the athleticism that served them so well in college.
“Guys at the college level don’t face the expertise or just the level of play, the level of skill that (NFL quarterbacks and receivers) have,” Garrett said.
“(In college), if you are a more talented player, you can get away with being a little late to the ball because you can (recover quickly). The ball’s not really where it’s supposed to be. But guys in this league throw the ball on time. They throw it where they want to throw it. The route running is good. So, technically, you just have to be really sound to give yourself a chance to succeed out there.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr said it’s clear on film teams are targeting Claiborne. But unlike others, Carr believes Claiborne remains confident. Still, Carr said he’s pulled Claiborne aside to offer him guidance and encouragement.
“He is going to take some bumps and bruises,” Carr said. “He hasn’t seen it all yet. I told him it took me four years to get it all out of my system and get my confidence level where it should be.
“The only thing you can tell him is keep battling, keep being positive.”
With that said, Carr supports the decision to start Scandrick.
“It’s not time for feelings or anything political,” Carr said of Claiborne’s demotion. “It’s all just business. We are trying to put the best 11 out there to win ball games.”