The Dallas Cowboys believe they have three starting cornerbacks. It’s why they list 12 starters on defense.
While Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr will start in the team’s base defense, the Cowboys expect Morris Claiborne to play just as much.
“Most of the time, it’s 80 percent nickel,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli explained. “So those corners have got to come on and play 80 percent of the game.”
As much grief as Carr and Claiborne have taken since their ballyhooed arrival in 2012, the Cowboys’ top three cornerbacks have become a strength of the defense. Carr, Claiborne and Scandrick have 20 years experience among them.
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“It’s been a process,” Carr said. “We are the most experienced. We’ve got a lot of guys who have been in the fire early and often. So we look forward to that, with this new position we’re in. We can hopefully set the tone and create some excitement for our defense.”
Carr was the only cornerback of the three to make it through last season. Scandrick tore the medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during training camp in 2015 and missed the entire season, and Claiborne missed five games with ankle and hamstring injuries.
The gang gets back together Sunday.
“We’ve got our veteran presence back there,” Marinelli said. “I think they all kind of have that little chip on the shoulder and could be really special this year.”
The Giants will put the Cowboys’ cornerbacks to the test in the season opener. The Giants list three receivers as starters, and plan to put Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz together on the field.
Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne believe they are up to the task.
“I feel like I’m back,” Scandrick said. “ … I’m just trying to do everything I can. I’m ready. I’m excited. I want to prove that I’m back. I want to prove it to everyone that thinks that I’m not, and I’ve just got a lot to prove, and this defense has got a lot to prove, and this secondary has got a lot to prove.
“And this is a good chance for us to begin proving ourselves.”
The Cowboys’ corners know they need takeaways, something the defense didn’t have enough of last season. Dallas made only eight interceptions in 2015 — with cornerbacks snaring only two —and the Cowboys finished a league-worst minus-22 in turnover differential.
Claiborne’s last interception came Sept. 21, 2014, Carr’s on Nov. 28, 2013, and Scandrick’s on Dec. 4, 2014.
All three have something to prove —– for different reasons — but perhaps Claiborne, as the sixth overall pick in 2012, has the most at stake this season. Claiborne signed a one-year, $3 million deal to return to Dallas after not drawing much interest as a free agent.
“I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove to anyone but really myself,” Claiborne said. “You hear a lot of talk, and it’s hard not to hear it, but it’s what you do with it. [Are] you going let it make you or let it break you? I feel like what a chance I have now and just try to take advantage of it.”
Giants at Cowboys
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4