Sterling Moore returned to practice Tuesday and just in time. With news of Orlando Scandrick’s four-game suspension, the Cowboys plan to make Moore the nickel cornerback.
"Sterling has really just done a nice job since he’s been with us," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s got a good feel for playing. He’s got good vision, good instincts. He’s a bigger and stronger guy than you think. He’s pretty good in press coverage. He gets on those guys, and it’s hard for them to get away from him. Versatility, both playing outside and inside. But as much as anything else, it’s just his feel for the game. You can tell he’s played a lot, and he’s been an asset to our team because of his versatility and because of that feel. He’s kind of got a playmaking knack, as well."
Moore had been out with a groin injury before returning to face the Raiders in joint practices.
"I feel good," Moore said. "It’s just a matter of not having any setbacks at this point, just continuing to do my rehab and my treatment, but it’s feeling better."
The former SMU standout has played 24 NFL games, including five each of the past two seasons with the Cowboys. Dallas cut him out of training camp last year, but he returned in November. Moore ended up playing 87 snaps and had seven defensive tackles and an interception.
"You like that he competes, and he’s got a savviness about him," defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said. "Last year, when he played in those games, when we had guys dinged up, he played well. He went in, and we were able to function with him in there, and so you like having him available."
Moore’s role has increased on the Cowboys, at least early this season.
"It’s been a tough experience, obviously," Moore said of being released last year. "I’m one of those guys, whenever I get my opportunity I feel I can go out there and make plays, and it’s just a matter of when those opportunities come. Obviously, right now I have a big opportunity and I just want to capitalize on that."
The Cowboys traded for cornerback Justin Green on Tuesday, and he will compete with Terrance Williams and B.W. Webb for backup spots on the team.
For now, the Cowboys are putting their faith in Moore to take over Scandrick’s role inside, with Morris Claiborne getting even more pressure to live up to being the team’s sixth overall pick in 2012.
"There’s a lot on us all, as a whole, the whole secondary especially, but as a whole defensive unit and as a team," Claiborne said. "Missing Scandrick for those four games is going to be tough, but we can’t do nothing about that. We’ve got to get these young guys ready, fill in and when Scandrick gets back we can’t lose anything. We know he’s going to do what he has to do so for when he does come back to be ready to play."