Monday, Morris Claiborne got physical with rookie receiver Terrence Williams. He had his hands on Williams’ shoulder pads, turned with him for a sideline pass and hit the ball with a jab through the receiver’s hands. Williams stumbled, and Claiborne pushed him away as the ball fell incomplete.
It was the kind of play that Claiborne may start making more consistently, the kind of play he put on 6 pounds for in the offseason. Claiborne, entering his second year at cornerback, will be called on to be more physical this year as the Cowboys change to the 4-3 defense, not only against the pass, but also the run.
“A lot has changed, I feel like, from my rookie year to this year,” Claiborne said. “I feel more comfortable coming into this camp. I feel like my body is right. I feel like I’m healthy enough, versus where I was last year.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Claiborne’s physicalness should only increase.
“I think with Mo, the physical nature of his play will increase just with the confidence level,” Garrett said. “The confidence level increases with his experience. Some guys play a certain way. And they’re playing Ok. They’re playing to their ability. But then there’s the next level, and the next level. A lot of that has to do with your confidence.
“There’s that next level of confidence, and typically if you play that way, you do play more physically and more aggressively, and hopefully he’s in that process of getting there.”
Claiborne seems far more sure of himself this year than last, when he spent part of training camp resting a sore knee and recovering from wrist surgery.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Claiborne said. “Like I said, last year, coming in, I was kind of on-the-fence about being ready, second-guessing myself. But this year, there ain’t no second-guessing. I feel like I’m ready. And I’m just ready to go out and play.”
In the opening press conference of camp, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Claiborne’s expected improvement is one of the reasons to be optimistic about the season. It didn’t faze Claiborne.
“I feel like the expectations for me are very high, not only from myself, but from the coaches,” he said. “They’re looking for something way more than I put out last year. I’m looking for that from myself. I feel like I can go out and do that.”
-- Carlos Mendez