After Morris Claiborne’s first three years in the NFL, it was looking like his injury-plagued career might never take flight.
Following a solid 2015, Dallas signed Morris to a one-year deal in March. Through three games this season, he’s finally beginning to pay dividends.
Claiborne’s numbers—he has zero interceptions on the season—might not jump off the page, but he leads the league in a more telling statistical category; incompletion percentage. Just 38 percent of the passes thrown his way this season have resulted in completed passes. He’s allowed nine catches for 90 yards. That’s better than some of the league’s best defensive backs by a pretty good clip.
The LSU product was drafted in the sixth round by the Cowboys in 2012, and battled a surgically repaired wrist right out of the gate, missing minicamp and the bulk of team activities prior to the start of his rookie season. He was expected to bring some much-needed athleticism to the Dallas secondary, so he got the start at right corner anyway. He finished with a respectable 55 tackles and one interception but picked up some more minor injuries along the way.
His next two seasons, 2013 and 2014, were more of the same. A sprained knee would hamper his performance, and lead to his being replaced on the depth chart by Orlando Scandrick. He was ultimately placed on injured reserve in 2014, and the Cowboys opted not to pick up the fifth year of his rookie contract.
In three seasons, Claiborne started a total of 10 games. Things looked so bleak that he considered retirement.
Then came the rebirth. Claiborne’s rehab from a potentially career-ending knee injury went better than expected and for the first time in his career, he was healthy heading into the regular season. A season-ending injury to Scandrick early on gave Claiborne the opportunity he’d been waiting for and he started 11 games. Now, Claiborne is developing into one of the league’s elite.
Interceptions are the most obvious measure of a corner’s success, but nothing’s more indicative of a true shutdown corner than turning away the vast majority of balls thrown your way. Claiborne is well on his way to becoming just that.