Morris Claiborne came to the Cowboys as the sixth overall pick in 2012 amid praise from owner Jerry Jones that he was the highest rated cornerback in the draft since Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
That was then.
Asked about his confidence in Claiborne heading into Sunday’s season opener against the 49ers, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s lack of praise spoke volumes.
“Well, he’s there,” Marinelli said. “He’s our starting corner. That’s the confidence. He’s gotta go do it.”
Technically, Claiborne is the team’s starting cornerback because Orlando Scandrick, who beat him out last season, is suspended for the first four games of the season.
And “he’s gotta do it”, as Marinelli put it, because they have nobody else.
It’s an understatement to say that Claiborne has been a disappointment his first two years which have featured poor play and a litany of injuries.
He has just two interceptions in 25 games with the Cowboys.
He missed the entire preseason because of a sprained shoulder and will take a pain-killing injection on Sunday to get on the field against the 49ers. He was hobbled by a similar injury, requiring him to wear a harness for much of last season.
He says he’s good go to and ready to prove his doubters wrong.
Claiborne still must prove to the Cowboys that he is the player they thought he was and not one that just there because they have no one else to turn to.
“The challenge for him is to simply come back and be consistent, playing his position and all aspects of it,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Did a really good job recovering from an injury at the end of last season and he had to deal with another one during training camp. He’s really worked hard to get himself healthy and ready to go.
“He has a chance to be a really good player for us and a complete player for us. Part of being a complete corner is being able to cover, play man, play zone but also be a physical player at the line of scrimmage and as a tackler. We feel like he’s improved in that area and hopefully this injury that he’s been dealing with doesn’t prevent him from being able to do that.”