Using four cornerbacks regularly would be unique and innovative, but for the Cowboys it may be the most effective way to utilize their surplus at the position if they choose to keep Mike Jenkins. There’s some legitimate concern about the run defense and how much either Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick can be trusted to make open-field tackles while playing safety, but that will likely be offset by the continued growth of Sean Lee at middle linebacker.
The Cowboys had the league’s seventh best run defense in 2011 and were one of the eight teams to allow less than 100 yards per game, so the risk against the run may be far outweighed by the reward while defending the pass. Dallas gave up 246.8 yards per game through the air (23rd) this past season, and last week when the denials kept flowing regarding a potential Jenkins trade, the idea of having four CBs in the defensive backfield was floated, with Jenkins and Scandrick playing alongside newly acquired/drafted Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.
It’s a brave and creative strategy, the kind of strategy that could confuse offenses when it’s first deployed next fall. There’s one problem, though.
Someone should tell Rob Ryan. He’s, you know, the defensive coordinator.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones first mentioned the four cornerback strategy during his Jenkins trade denials, and then later defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson also hinted strongly. Ryan, however, isn’t convinced yet.
ESPN’s Tim McMahon described Ryan as “lukewarm” about the idea of regularly trotting either Jenkins or Scandrick out to play safety.
“I don’t know if we’ll do that,” Ryan said. “If we ever get in a need to play all those guys, then we can do that certainly. They have good skill sets where I’m sure they could match up with a tight end, a smaller tight end or whatever. It’s just if that need ever shows up, then you can definitely play those four guys.”
When Ryan is angry or confused, he retreats to his van down by the river.
Even if Ryan isn’t fully on board with a four cornerback alignment, a Jenkins trade still feels increasingly unlikely until another team develops a dire need during training camp because of an injury. In that scenario as the demand rises, the price will too, and the suitor will cave more easily to the price Dallas has slapped on Jenkins (widely rumored to be a fourth-round pick).
Until then, Jenkins can sit, stew, and hope for his chance to start elsewhere. He won’t start for Ryan with Carr and Claiborne atop the CB depth chart, and with the Cowboys’ memories of rampant injuries to corners last year still fresh, Jenkins will become a highly affordable and highly effective depth player.