Way back in February when the Cowboys’ starting cornerbacks were still Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman, I published an article entitled “Free agent CB Brandon Carr should be tops on the Cowboys’ wish list.” In it, I wrote:
In 2011, Carr was targeted 79 times, giving up just 39 completions (49.4 percent completion rate) for 511 yards (6.47 YPA). Of cornerbacks who played more than half of their team’s snaps, the 61.7 passer rating Carr allowed was eighth-best in the NFL. He yielded three touchdowns to Routt’s nine, and three penalties to Routt’s 17.
2011 wasn’t simply a fluke for Carr, either. He allowed just 45.9 percent of the 111 passes his way to be completed in 2010, surrendering 7.15 YPA and a passer rating of 81.4.
I’ve been fascinated with Carr’s skill set for a long time; he’s got a versatile game and has improved every year he has been in the NFL. He certainly looks the part in Dallas during the preseason, displaying shutdown ability and much-needed play-making prowess.
Based on Carr’s time in Kansas City and his switch to Rob Ryan’s scheme, I think we’re looking at around 60 tackles and four interceptions from Carr in 2012. Those numbers are great, but Carr’s efficiency will be more vital to Dallas. After all, if his coverage is so outstanding that he doesn’t even get thrown at, he can dominate games without racking up stats.
Over the past three seasons, Carr was targeted an average of 91.7 times per season, yielding 46 receptions per season—good for an incredible 53.8 percent completion rate and 7.36 yards-per-attempt. With rookie Morris Claiborne playing opposite Carr, I think the veteran will be tested less frequently than normal in 2012.
Nonetheless, a slight jump in completion percentage and yards-per-attempt might be in store for Carr, simply because I anticipate quarterbacks throwing at him primarily when they’re relatively sure they can get a completion. Nnamdi Asomugha has been the least-targeted cornerback in the NFL since 2009, for example, and he has allowed a 60.6 percent completion rate.
If Carr is targeted 70 times and allows a 57.0 percent completion rate and 7.70 yards-per-attempt—small jumps from his numbers in Kansas City—he’d give up 40 catches for 308 yards this season, which would be remarkable.
Of course, we shouldn’t expect Claiborne’s efficiency to match that of the Cowboys’ top cornerback. Based on historical production from first-round cornerbacks and the ‘Boys current defense, Claiborne will probably be targeted at least 110 times this year. By allowing a completion rate of 58.0 percent and 8.00 yards-per-attempt, Claiborne would be sitting at 64 receptions for 512 yards.
In total, I think Carr and Claiborne will combine for eight picks and 120 tackles in 2012, allowing 104 receptions for 820 yards in the process. In comparison, I tracked Jenkins and Newman as allowing 79 receptions for 1154 yards last year. But don’t forget the tandem played just about three-quarters of the defensive snaps in 2011, meaning they were on pace to give up 105 receptions for 1,539 yards. If the Cowboys’ cornerbacks can cut out 719 passing yards from their 2011 defensive total, I think we’re looking at a playoff team in 2012.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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