Last weekend was not only the first chance for the Cowboys’ rookies to be seen on the field, it was also the first on-field action for the new assistant coaches.
New secondary coach Jerome Henderson stood out.
He wore cleats, he was demonstrative, and he came off the field brimming with enthusiasm to reporters.
“I’m just excited to be here in Dallas,” he said Saturday after one of the practices at Valley Ranch. “It’s been a great offseason so far. We made some really good additions to the secondary, to our team. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to get in here and start working with the guys and getting my hands on them as far as starting to teach them how we want to play this year and what our new philosophy will be and our thought process as we play.
“I’m just excited to start working with the guys.”
To that end, the 42-year-old coach wore cleats and ran around showing exactly the technique he wanted.
“I do, just because some times, when I’m trying to show something in a drill and I’m trying to move and you have tennis shoes on, I just can’t move or can’t react like I want to help them,” he said. “Like right now, as I get going, hopefully I’ll move around a lot more, and I’ll work one-on-one with guys because I know what an NFL corner feels like when he jams you. I know how strong he is, and I know his punch. So I want to feel that, so I can correct it one-on-one and I’m not looking at it saying, ‘Well, OK, that looked like a good punch.’ It’s a good punch because my chest hurts. I know what it feels like.”
Henderson played cornerback eight years in the NFL. He was a second-round pick of the New England Patriots in 1991, and he played for their Super Bowl team in 1996. He also played in a Super Bowl for the Buffalo Bills and played for the Eagles and Jets.
He spent the two years before coming to the Cowboys as secondary coach for the Cleveland Browns, where he developed cornerback Joe Haden (who had six interceptions as a rookie in 2010) and safety T.J. Ward (who led the Browns in tackles as a rookie the same year).
With the Cowboys, he now has a chance to work with the team’s No. 1 pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys also return a former first-round cornerback, Mike Jenkins, veterans Orlando Scandrick and Gerald Sensabaugh and signed one of the top free agent cornerbacks available in the past offseason, Brandon Carr.
So, Henderson was asked: Is this the best secondary, on paper, he’s worked with?
“You know, on paper, you look at things on paper and you may say it is,” he said. “But again, we don’t play football on paper. We play out there on Sundays. It’ll be the most talented if we play that way. Whether we will or not, we’ve got a lot of work.”
Henderson said he has to put a mentality in his group.
“The mentality we’re going to try to build is that we fight; we scratch, and we claw, no matter what the situation,” he said. “It may not be pretty all the time, and it’s not going to be perfect. But the one thing you know – and this is our expectation, and this is what we’ve been talking about – is this group will play smart, and they will compete, down in and down out.”
-- Carlos Mendez