Lost in the midst of eleven game winning streaks and number one seeds was the absence of the person who may be the Cowboys best defensive back. Morris Claiborne, the fifth year corner out of LSU, tore a piece of bone off his pelvis on October 30th, and has missed every game since.
Nine games, to be exact.
But after the nine game hiatus Mo' has finally returned to practice, and is slated to be ready for the Cowboys divisional playoff game on January 15th. His return should not be understated.
Up until his injury, Claiborne was playing like the shutdown corner the Cowboys brain-trust hoped he could be when they traded up to pick him sixth overall in 2012. Arguably his two best games coming in back to back weeks against the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
After intercepting Blaine Gabbert and allowing just two catches for six yards against the ‘9ers, Claiborne went out and shut down one of the top wide-outs in football in AJ Green the very next week. After those two performances, everyone around the league began to notice that Morris Claiborne had arrived.
No matter who the Cowboys play in the next round, Mo's skills will be greatly needed.
If a third game with the New York Giants awaits, the Cowboys will need Claiborne to cover Odell Beckham, just like he has in years past. Despite being unimpressive or injured for much of the early part of his career, Claiborne has always done a nice job against Beckham when given the chance. Between he and Brandon Carr, who played well in week 14 against OBJ, the Cowboys secondary should be on lock-down.
If Aaron Rodgers and the Packers travel to Dallas next week, well, you know what the task at hand would be. Stopping the best quarterback in the league requires all of your defensive backs to be healthy, just like they were earlier this year when Mo and Carr shut down Jordy Nelson and held the Packers to just 16 points.
If, by some chance, it is the Detroit Lions who come to town, well then Morris Claiborne will be needed to beef up a defense which allowed 21 points in the first half to the Lions. Then again, the Cowboys defense didn't stutter much at all the rest of the game. Either way Claiborne will be a welcomed addition.
Regardless of what happens this Wildcard Weekend, the Cowboys will be ready for their opponent next week. But with members of the defensive line dropping daily, the return on Morris Claiborne is even more important to the team's Super Bowl run than ever.