IRVING, Texas - One interception and one forced fumbled in 25 games is not the type of impact the Cowboys had in mind when they drafted Morris Claiborne sixth overall in 2012.
If you don't recall, the Cowboys dealt their first round pick (14th) and second round pick (45th) to the Rams in exchange for the sixth overall pick.
The Rams selected defensive tackle Michael Brockers, and sent the second round pick to the Bears, who drafted receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Both players have been better than Claiborne, and the Cowboys could have used both.
Brockers has played 29 games and registered 9.5 sacks with two forced fumbles.
In two seasons, Jeffery has 113 receptions for 1,788 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last season, he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven TDs. He and teammate Brandon Marshall are one of the best WR tandems in the NFL.
Claiborne, meanwhile, has looked nothing like the player that "draft analysts" said was the best defensive player in the draft. He has been picked on. He has been hurt. He has lost confidence. He has been benched. And he has been ripped to shreds, and already labeled a bust by fans and the media horde.
"Yeah - I hear it. There is nothing I can do about it," Claiborne told me.
Claiborne is well aware of what is ahead of him - the third year. This is the season most NFL types agree a guy gets it, or he doesn't.
Last season, he battled injury and was limited to 10 games. Physically, he looks much bigger than one year ago, and he sounds like amid what he described "a lost year" there was something taken from the whole experience.
"I learned what it's like and what it takes just to be a pro," he said. "Doing the job. Day in and day out. Knowing what to eat. Knowing how to take care of myself. Knowing how to get ready."
Don't dismiss the development. A lot of guys never get it, and just act like preparing for a game on Sunday is no different than prepping for the game on Saturday when they were in college. The NFL is a game, but it's a big job with a lot of hassles, irritants and obstacles that are in the way. It's not uncommon players are eaten alive by the "other stuff."
If Claiborne can't remain healthy, it won't matter how much he has learned.
If Claiborne can stay healthy, no one disputes whether he has the tools to play the position and be a lock down corner this team needs.
Claiborne may never produce enough to "win" a trade that has turned into a Neiman Marcus-priced exchange for the Cowboys, but if he "gets it" at least the deal won't look so lopsided.
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