Losing Orlando Scandrick for the season really changes the dynamic of the Secondary. Not only has he been the Cowboys' best Cornerback the past few seasons, he also has established a reputation as one of the best slot Corners in the NFL. His on-field grit will be missed, luckily there is quite a bit of depth to make up for his loss.
The following are those I feel have already solidified a spot on the final 53:
- Brandon Carr
- Morris Claiborne
- Byron Jones
- Corey White
- Tyler Patmon
- Barry Church
- JJ Wilcox
- Jeff Heath
Yes, many will probably roll their eyes at the mention of Jeff Heath. I will only point to Special Teams during the first two Preseason games, we witnessed what it looks like when coverage units are made up by players who are not disciplined. I will gladly keep Heath on the roster to help solidify those units. Does anyone see him as a long-term starting Safety, no. Does he have value? Yes.
Tyler Patmon may have already had a roster spot secured before the Scandrick injury; according to Secondary Coach Jerome Henderson his role will become even more prominent. He had the following to say when asked who will replace Scandrick in the slot:
“That’ll be Tyler Patmon. He’s done a good job for us. And, like O, has those unique awareness instincts inside – that he feels the game, that he sees the game from a different perspective.”
The Cowboys will also have to rely on the much maligned Mo Claiborne to provide stability at the Right Cornerback position. His play this year will determine if the trade needed to select him was of true value, he will have every opportunity this year to prove he has the talent many NFL Scouts felt he did coming out of LSU.
Corey White has been stellar throughout Training Camp and has shown up in games as well. His flexibility to play Corner and Safety will be vital for the defense in Nickle and Dime situations. The same is true for Byron Jones: His flexibility at those two positions are even more paramount now that Scandrick is lost for the year.
If the Cowboys are to carry nine in the Secondary that makes for an interesting decision.
I for one cannot see how Danny McCray makes this team as he is extremely limited at Safety. That final spot could go to either Robert Steeples or Joel Ross. With Carr, Scandrick, Jones, and Patmon all missing time in camp, each has taken a number of repetitions during team and one on one drills.
I personally feel Ross has shown up a bit more in practice, yet there will be two more games to see whether either can do anything to stand out from the other. It is possible the Cowboys could only go eight in the secondary, as that would allow them to go deeper on the Defensive Line or potentially carry an extra Tight End.
There still remains a good deal of promise within the Secondary and with a pass rush that I am willing to guarantee will be improved over last season, there is a strong possibility the unit will play extremely well.