The Cowboys have yet to see Morris Claiborne in action. He still is recovering from left wrist surgery and is not expected to be practicing until training camp in July. Still, the Cowboys like what they have seen enough to all but hand him the starting job.
They drafted Claiborne sixth overall to shore up their secondary. The Cowboys have been among the team's all-time worst pass defenses the past two seasons. They gave up 3,906 passing yards in 2011 after allowing 3,891 in 2010.
"In my opinion, everybody earns however many reps they get or their starting spot," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "Obviously, this guy’s a unique talent. We didn’t move up in the draft to get a guy that’s not going to play. We’ve got an outstanding guy here."
That leaves Mike Jenkins as the odd man out, considering the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million deal. Orlando Scandrick, whom Dallas signed to a five-year, $20.5 million extension last summer, is the nickel back.
"The biggest thing with Mike is, he’s a fine football player, but he’s got to get well," Ryan said referring to Jenkins' shoulder injury. "To compete with this young man, he’s going to have to get better, to get healthy and then go out and play against Morris Claiborne."
It could be that the Cowboys' refusal to trade Jenkins has to do with Claiborne not being healthy yet. The Cowboys had injuries to Jenkins, Scandrick and Terence Newman last season that got Alan Ball and Frank Walker on the field far too much.
"We know in this league you need guys who can cover, and you need a lot of them," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "Anybody who watched our team last year understood the injury situations that we had, and we were getting down to our third, fourth and fifth corner really quickly. So when teams are putting three receivers out there, four receivers out there and sometimes five receivers out there, you have to have an arsenal of guys who can cover. We think that’s an important thing. We think we made a lot of moves to help us in that area. The specifics of how we use those guys is yet to be determined."
-- Charean Williams