Cowboys defensive backs coach has some secondary concerns

Posted Thursday, Sep. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Jerome Henderson enters his second year as defensive backs coach for the Cowboys. He is trying to shape a secondary with Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr returning as the corners, but with a safety group in transition. The Cowboys lost Gerald Sensabaugh to retirement and brought in former Pittsburgh Steeler and Monte Kiffin Tampa alum Will Allen to pair with Barry Church, who lost nearly a full year to injury. So Henderson, a former Browns assistant under Rob Ryan who also played for Bill Parcells with the Jets, has work ahead of him. He discusses the secondary and his experience as a player.

How has Will Allen demonstrated his veteran influence? In the room. He’s a real pro. He’s very detailed in everything he does. He really cares about it, puts a lot of effort into it, and he’s a natural mentor. He’s one of those that naturally is going to get those young guys and talk to them, coach them up, and bring them that extra mile.

Where is Barry Church showing improvement?He’s doing a great job playing in the deep part of the field, and you can see him learning as he goes and picking up things. There was a play not too long ago in practice where he didn’t go up and compete with Dez [Bryant] on the deep ball. He was kind of waiting for it to come down. Dez goes up and makes a play on him, because good receivers are going to go attack the ball. He had that same situation again where he went back to the ball more and tried to take Dez out of the play. So you can see he is learning as he goes.

How much better can Morris Claiborne be this year? He can be a lot better. I think he was solid last year. And if you think back, nobody really exploited him and he had those days when you look out and think, ‘Why is this guy out there?’ And you’ve had some other first-round corners who’ve had days like that, where you think, ‘Gosh, man, are you sure?’ He never had those days, but we think the ceiling is even higher for him, and we expect a lot more.

How high is the ceiling for J.J. Wilcox?The ceiling is very high for him. How good can he be? I don’t know. It depends on how hard he works and how much he pushes himself. I believe that he will do that. I believe he’s a special person that way. So again, I have high expectations for him.

How can you speed up the learning curve for the young safeties? We do a lot of walkthroughs, and Joe Baker has really done a great job of taking the safeties and doing fit drills and slowing it down so they really see the details of their fits and where they’ve got to be, and he talks through with them their thought process. He’s done a great job with those young safeties, getting them up to speed.

Do you draw on your own experience as a player? A lot. I think that’s kind of who I am as a teacher. I hated the coaches that screamed at you but never gave you any information. Don’t scream at me just to scream at me. Scream at me, then give me something at the end that tells me how not to do that again. So that’s the approach I take. I try, even if I’m getting on them, I try to say here’s how you should have played it, here’s what you should have been thinking.

What were your own mistakes as a player?Just taking proper angles, clean feet. That’s really big for us in the secondary. Making sure I’ve got the right angle, because I’ve only got one shot to make that. And a lot of times, guys will try to leave early and will end up hurting themselves because they took a poor angle and now they can’t get back to make the tackle they’ve got to make, especially in the deep part of the field.

Which of your own mistakes do you remember most? A lot of them. (Laughing). Too many to name. I think that’s maybe what makes me a good teacher, is I’ve done every bonehead thing you can do as a player.

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