Who’s the Cowboys’ Best Free Agent Corner Buy? K.C. Joyner Looks at Three Big-Ticket Prospects

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Is Cortland Finnegan up to this
matchup twice a year?

Part three of my discussion with ESPN Insider’s NFL and college analyst K.C. Joyner looks at three of the biggest cornerback free agent prospects — Carlos Rogers, Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr.


K.C. Joyner:  somebody else the Cowboys may get a shot at is Carlos Rogers, depending on the the ‘Niners decide to do.   The problem with Rogers, he’s got a 6.6 YPA, had six interceptions, he’s the best combination of ball-hawk and cover guy, a guy who can do both, maybe in the league right now.

But he also is playing in a contract year, and this season all the Washington fans were asking, “where was this guy when we had him?”

CN:  We talked about him last spring, before the free agency period began and your run-down of the Redskins secondary was, Phillip Buchanon was good, Rogers was medicore and DeAngelo Hall was awful.  Now, he gets a one-year deal and he’s great.  He’s not a young guy, is he?

K.C.:  I think he’s responding to San Francisco situation very well.  He was not happy in Washington, for whatever reason.  But he’s 30.  So you’ve got the Nnamdi Asomugha question:  are you going to play big money for a guy whose best years are behind him?

If the Cowboys were looking at a one-year Super Bowl run, Carlos Rogers would be a smart move.  But I don’t think they’re looking at it that way, and I don’t think they should be.

CN:  I see Cortland Finnegan’s name raised a lot and maybe he was hurt last year, but I look at your 2010 metrics and he was bad.  He was 86th and he was one class above Terence Newman in ’10. He’s had good years in the past, but he’s a short corner.

Did he bounce back in 2011?

K.C:  It’s interesting because you’ve done some studies on YPAs in the past and cornerback numbers can move up and down wildly from year to year, and it’s rare to see the guy whose YPA stays constantly good season after season,  Finnegan had a good year this year.  At last check he was in the mid-7s.  He had a solid season, but not a great year.

He has down years every once in a while, but it may mean that he was beaten on a couple of plays.  If you get 70 passes thrown your way and you happen to get beat on one 70 yard pass, you could have the same season from year-to-year and you could go from 6.5 to 7.5 just on the strength of that one pass.  It’s important not to give up that pass, but it might not be indicative of your talent level as a whole.

I think that was more the case with Finnegan last year.  This year, he played well.  I like that he brings a certain physicality and anger and toughness to the secondary.  I think the Dallas secondary could use that.  They’ve had ball-hawking and I’d like them to be more feisty and really get after guys.  I think they’ve been more athletic guys and I’d like to see some more physical guys. From that standpoint he’d be a good fit.

CN:  Let’s talk about Brandon Carr.  You mentioned him last year as someone to keep an eye on, but he was restricted.  This year he’s on the market.  You pointed out that he’s not the glitziest prospect.  He’s been overshadowed on his own team by Brandon Flowers.  Flowers’ metrics were better in ’09 and ’10 but just slightly, maybe half a yard better.

How did Carr play this year and might he be that good buy, because he’s only 25 or 26 years old?

K.C.:  He’d be a good pickup.  Actually, Flowers had an off-season.  They’re both still in the same boat, metics wise.  He’s young.  Carr is a bit hit or miss sometimes.  I like his overall numbers but he is hit or miss.  That’s a bit of a concern but I may be nit-picking the guy, because he’s got a lot of what you want in a cornerback.  He can ball-hawk.  He’s got some speed.

I guess I’m wondering how he would do if I made him my number one guy, because he hasn’t been that guy in Kansas City.  That’s been Flowers.  If you’re putting Carr up there as the number one, I think he’s better as an alternate rather than your shadow corner.  I think he’d be okay against the Eagles, ’cause I don’t think the Eagles are that good when they face solid cornerback competition.

But if you want to face the Giants.  If you want to face Nicks and Manningham and Cruz you’re going to need a true shadow corner.  You’re going to face Hakeem Nicks you need a true shadow corner.  He’s not that. I don’t think he’s quite to that level.  He’d help.  But if I’m putting him in a matchup against a healthy Hakeem Nicks, I’m taking Nicks seven days a week.  He’s not necessarily going to dominate Carr, but if I’m the Giants, I’m not going to be afraid to throw that way.

CN:  When Finnegan is playing well, how would you compare those two?

K.C.:  Finnegan is a better corner.  I don’t know if he fits that top guy role either.  Where I do like Finnegan, I mentioned the Eagles receivers.  They don’t tend to do well against top level cornerbacks.  I think they’d fold their tents against Finnegan.  I think that if you put DeSean Jackson and you put Jeremy Maclin, you put them up against Cortland Finnegan?  Those two don’t handle physical corners and I think Finnegan would get into their heads in no time.

But I don’t think he would match up as well against the Giants receivers.  If Cortland Finnegan tried doing that physical stuff with Nicks?  Nicks would route-run him into a fit.  Not down on Finnegan.  He’s a good corner, but when Nicks is on his game, he’s hard.  And I’m not taking anything away from Victor Cruz, ’cause he had much better numbers than Nicks this year.

Manningham had a down year, but he’s got elite chops at wide receiver — and he’s a guy the Cowboys might consider picking up, by the way.

Next:  Another veteran corner worth investigating, and did Mike Jenkins bounce back from his awful 2010?

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com
  • Cowboys4Life

    Sounds like he’s not too wowed by any of the FA corners.  Especially not against the Giants receiver corps.

    • kameleon_o

      Nicks and Cruz feasted on most CB’s last year. Didn’t really matter who they were. It’s going to be just about limiting them. There aren’t usually any Deons in FA that will just shut down everyone. We can stand to get better at the position no matter what. If we do, then we might not shut them down, but we’ll win more battles than we did this year for sure and that’s part of getting better.

  • Oklahoma

    Giant Rhetorical Questions:  I’m left contemplating what it is that has distinguished the Eli-Romo era Giants from the Cowboys (including in their 07 playoff contest and 2 games this year).  On paper the differences have not been that great during these years, but the stark contrast in results speaks for itself.  Could anyone really envision the 07 Cowboys beating the 19-0 Patriots, or this year’s Dallas team winning in Lamebeau or Candlesick?  Coughlin has already tied Landry’s record of 7 road playoff wins.  I do not like these football Giants [Sam I Am], but my Sunday Stetson (see:  Mendocino Rex) is off to them because (at their best) they play the proverbial old-school, unintimidated, fight-to-the-end type of football.  They are not great ala the 85 Bears, but in comparison to the late-season-soft-playing Cowboys, the New Yawkahs, arguably, play tougher and smarter in keeping with the ballyhooed Parcells-Coughlin model. 
     
    Is it true that the Giants (especially the Defensive front 7) have a collective motor that Dallas simply does not possess?  Does this account for the fact that they are not intimidated by an opponent’s record or playing on the road in the playoffs?   Is there a difference in “culture”, e.g. such that Cowboy Canty becomes a better player as Giant Canty?  Is the difference down to talent and/or talent acquisition?  Coaching?  I for one would welcome explanations for NY’s success in comparison to the Romo-era Cowboys.  How come Giants fans are playing with another new train set, while we are staring at a lump of coal? 
     
    Is this just a technological breakdown, a glitch in the Cowboys’ motherboard…or is Chris Rea, like Der Krampas, looking directly at Jerry as he sings?
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abZlWqVeLzg
     
     

    • Ridgelake

      The Giants have multiple guys who can rush the passer well.  JPP, Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka, etc.  Dallas has 1 (Ware), maybe 2 (Rat).  When you can get consistent pressure with 4 guys, your secondary can play a whole lot better.

      • Leswung

        Can we say The Giants protect Eli much much better than The ‘Boys? We all know if a good qb has time, he can always do a wonderful job throwing down fields and win games. See the Giants and the Patriots, they don’t have great great defense (vs  49ers 1st overall
         and Ravens 3rd overall) but Eli and Brady have just enough time to march and kick the winning field goals.
        **** Protect Romo ****

    • Este

      It’s about talent the Giants are better at every position group with the exception of LB where it’s probably a wash.

      • DannyWhite

        The only significant advantage the Giants have over us is lineplay, on both sides. They protect better and rush the passer (much) better than we do, and that’s why they beat us most of the time – at the end of games, Eli has more time than Romo does. Aside from that I would put up our QB/RB/WR/TE against theirs and feel comfortable with it. On D, our LBs are better, and their DBs are slightly better (though nothing to get excited about).

        That’s why we need to focus on pass protection and pass rushing in FA/the draft.

        • since ’66

          Well said Danny, let’s fix the lines first. Also would love to see them play a 4-3 as the base defense, I’m not fond of seeing Ware and Spencer dropping back in coverage.

    • hardwater

      Agree with everything you said. I believe it starts with the team culture (Cowboys are entitled/comfortable), which JG is trying to change in spite of JJ (I also believe he is slowly/subtly trying to change JJ as regards to team culture). Secondly, Eli has “done it” and has proved himself an elite QB and Giants have confidence that they can “do it”. Thirdly, Giants have more talent all over the field and on both sides of the ball, and when playing well spectacularly better talent (like the Jimmy Johnson Cowboys). This is looking a lot like 2007 for Giants but we’ll see what Brady has to say. 

    • ym

      One reason is that the Cowboys are stuck in the past.  You’ll read articles from Raf about JG “playing the classics.”  Jerry is still trying to win they way they used to.  Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not working.  Look at the 49ers.  They look nothing like the team we knew, but if they won, no one would say they got lucky or didn’t deserve it.  The Giants just take advantage of whatever mistakes their opponents play.
      Maybe just find what you can do well?

    • fiverings37

      Eli is very good but also extremely lucky, 2 would be pics only to be knocked away by their own teammates.  I have never seen a team and QB as lucky as NY, good for sure, but also lucky as Hell.

  • joey2zs

    SF got to Eli repeatedly.  That’s how you beat them.  Sign Finnegan to Begin Again in Dallas and with that DeSean Jackson is dealt with.  Sign Cliff Avril and use 2nd and 3rd picks on ILB and DB – and with that, Eli will have pressure in his face. 
    The defense will be settled well enough to win in the short term, and solutions get found in the 2013 draft with CB and Safety.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JMHKXKJVZVOS2ULOKWMBSSWSLE Chris

      I don’t know if Avril could be a 3-4 strong side OLB since he’s not known to be strong against the run.  I do agree that getting a pass rusher opposite Ware should be priority 1A along with fixing the interior of the line because with teams like the 49ers, Giants and Eagles, if you can’t protect the QB you’re offense has no chance.

      • kameleon_o

        First, let me say I’m board with signing Avril to play OLB if possible. I think if Calais Campbell is franchised Avril should be our #1 target. I am wondering how well he’d play OLB. He played it in college so it’s not new to him. He has and can play it but I don’t think he played it very well. He was JAG until they moved him to DE his final year and he took off. I’m less worried though as I heard a stat the other day that we line up over 50% with a 4 man line anyway. That should mitigate any transition problems he has. Let RR think up creative ways to let him rush the passer.

  • greatwhitenorth

    There are three way to get good CB play.  1) Overpay for a free agent, 2) Draft them high, 3) build a good pass rush to turn average DBs into good ones.  I wouldn’t overpay for any of the FAs this year, and I’m really tired of drafting mediocre pass rushers, so I’m voting for a first round CB.

  • Taylor

    Giants front seven is better than the Cowboys.  If you take Lee and Ware off the field, there is not one playmaker left.  The Giants also make better use of their talent.  

    • kameleon_o

      They also just have better talent over all. When a Manningham goes down they have a Cruz step up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them have an O-lineman, even a LT, go down to injury and they’ll do something like move a guard to the LT spot and still shut down our pass rush for the most part. They’re adaptable in a way we’re not. 

  • sixrings09

    Defense does not matter anymore.  The NFL is the new NBA.

    Saw the Giants hold with impunity in both games against Dallas.  No calls.  Late in the game last night, Giants lineman horsecollared a Niners D-lineman to the ground as he was escaping to reach Eli.  There was no call there.

    It is not a conspiracy.  It is the NFL wanting the scores in games to be 34-31.  Not 21 -7

    • Jarhead

      Pats QB is a true hall of famer, and you all know I’ll be pulling for him in two weeks, but PATs defense rose to power mauling opposing WRs all the way down the field. It worked quite effectively against the greatest show on turf Rams, and against the Colts, who were the PAT’s biggest rival for SB trips.
       
      NFL outlawed it.

  • dacolan

    Re-signing Laurent Robinson aside, I think the ‘Boys need to find a way to add three starters in free agency: upgrade the interior OL (guard or center), a dominant pass rusher (that means one of Callais/Mario/Avril) and a replacement for Newman. If we come out of the draft with another couple starters this team would be well on it’s way to contending once again.

    • cowboyny

      I think two impact starters through FA sounds more realistic, especially if you have the team signing an elite pass rusher. With a high draft slot, I believe finding 3 impact starters is the bar to reach. Add 5 impact players and the team could return to the postseason.

  • dacolan

    Rafael,

    Speaking of FA CBs… Not sure who the final veteran corner is you teased coming up in your next piece, but I’d like to hear KC’s opinion on both Ladarius Webb as a FA acquisition, and what you/he thinks of taking a chance on signing a player who missed the season with a torn ACL like Terrel Thomas who may still have a suspect wheel. At a position that places such a premium on speed and lateral quickness, is he even worth considering?

    • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

      Webb is a restricted free agent.  Don’t think Dallas pursues those this year.  Webb would be a big time target if he were UFA.  

  • kameleon_o

    So Finnegan it is!!! LOL