Cowboys Defense to Bench Carter and Claiborne. What’s up with these guys?

The Honeymoon is over

The Honeymoon is over

Conerback Morris Claiborne and Linebacker Bruce Carter will not be starting Sunday when Dallas plays the Broncos who have the highest scoring offense in the NFL. Sims will replace Carter at LB and Scandrick will move into Claiborne’s spot at corner.

Both of these guys were high draft picks and came into this season with high expectations.
To get Claiborne, Jerry traded away a 2nd round pick to draft him number 6 in the 2012 draft. Sure could have used a guard or something with that 2nd rd. pick.

Carter was a 2nd round pick in 2011 who was coming off a serious knee injury late in his college career at UNC. Drafting Carter was a known risk since there was no guarantee he would fully recover from that ACL injury but last season he seem to have a bright future with Dallas. Dan Connor was brought in to compete with Carter but Carter was the better LB, no contest.

Recently Jerry Jones expressed disappointment in their play. HERE.

So what’s up with these two? Is it the 4-3 Tampa defense just implemented this season? Or is it related to injuries?

Carter- Must be the injury
Last week Carter was struggling against the Chargers and found himself watching from the sideline after coaches saw enough. Carter looked more than a step too slow when asked to cover RB Danny Woodhead out of the backfield on a wheel route that Rivers connected for a touchdown.

Carter is a guy who would appear to be an ideal fit for this 4-3 defense (which he played in college) because of his outstanding speed and athletic ability. I’ve watched Carter play since his career began in college at UNC and he just doesn’t seem like the same guy.

Last season Carter suffered a season ending elbow injury on Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins. It required surgery in the offseason but Carter still finished the season as the Cowboys 2nd leading tackler. How an elbow injury could impact his movement isn’t clear to me but he isn’t moving like he once did. Could it be that the ACL injured knee isn’t holding up to the demands of playing every down in the NFL?

I don’t believe the new defense has anything to do with Carter’s poor play. So I conclude it could be the same old injury which made his pre draft stock drop. This pick was a gamble and it may not be paying off now.

Claiborne- Must be the new defense
Mo Claiborne sprained his left MCL in preseason camp and played very little in the preseason games. In the opening game with the Giants, he dislocated his shoulder making a tackle. So he isn’t 100 percent and that could be a factor in his slow start this season.

Claiborne was drafted to play in Rob Ryan’s defense where he was asked to play man to man with WRs. Monte Kiffin’s defense now ask Mo to play in zone coverage. Claiborne explains,

“It’s still a transition. When we were in press, just faced up man to man, they only hit one ball on me. But overall, I think all my big plays come within the zone.”

Claiborne has struggled and been picked on by QBs as the defense has allowed two 400 plus yards passing performances for the first time. It has been ugly with Coach Garrett calling out Claiborne as not playing with confidence. And Mo admitted as much by saying,

“When you’re playing zone, you have to know where your help is, you have to know where you can push a guy to, to your help, you’ve got to know when you can man up and play it, all just man-to-man. You have to think about so much before the snap. You have to think of, ‘We’re in bail. I should be bailing. I should be off 5 yards here.’ That’s something I have to get used to.”

It appears his time to “get used to it” is coming to an end with the benching. Jerry Jones made a big commitment to Claiborne by investing a 1st and 2nd round pick in him. So far it’s not paying off.

Injuries could be playing a role in his poor performance but based on Claiborne’s talk of his struggles with the new defense, I believe he isn’t a great fit for this new defense and that’s a big problem.

Final Take: It’s too early to write Carter and Claiborne off as bust picks but drafting guys in the first two rounds that don’t pan out, will often lead to the firing of GMs in other NFL organizations. But with Jerry, Cowboy fans know that isn’t happening because he is the owner/GM. And that may be the biggest problem of all…