Over the course of his six-year career, Morris Claiborne has unfortunately rarely seen the field.
The former sixth overall pick, selected by the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, played in just 47 of a possible 80 regular season games, due to recurring knee and shoulder ailments and separate hamstring, ankle and groin injuries.
Now, he finds himself with the New York Jets on a one-year prove-it deal, and through one week of organized team activities, the oft-injured cornerback is already looking at his fresh start through rose-colored visors.
“I feel like I can be the No. 1 corner in this league if I’m healthy … when I’m healthy,” Claiborne told The New York Post this week. “When I’m out there playing and I’m healthy and I’m on my game, I don’t feel like there is anybody better than me.”
If I’m healthy. When I’m healthy.
When Claiborne is on the field, he’s a more than fine corner. According to Pro Football Focus, Claiborne allowed a 63.0 passer rating and limited opposing receivers to a 51.9 percent catch rate in 2016, marks which ranked ninth and 11th respectively among all NFL corners. He also decreased his average catch yardage by nearly 50 percent, from 14.4 yards per catch to 8.2.
But there is always that if and that when lingering around the hopeful corner.
Claiborne’s durability is paramount to whether he can turn his career around, which might explain why he told the Jets‘ website that the training staff was one of the main reasons he was drawn to the organization.
“I just fell in love with the training staff, the things that they do and the options they give you to be able to take care of your body,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “They really care about you as a person.”
Claiborne will likely start opposite former nickel corner Buster Skrine on the outside of New York’s remodeled secondary. Gone are Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, crusty vestiges of the Rex Ryan era. In their stead are Claiborne and two rookie safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, a trio of secondary studs ready to make, or remake, their mark on this league.
Todd Bowles’ unproven unit could surprise teams in 2017, but it all depends on the cohesion brought about by those players being around for all of OTAs, minicamp, training camp, etc. Especially Claiborne.