Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Morris Claiborne is a 27 year old, 5' 11", 190 pound cornerback out of Louisiana State University. Claiborne was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 6th overall selection in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Morris Claiborne spent the first five years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, where he got a reputation for being an oft injured, under-performing player. In his time with the Cowboys Claiborne played in only 43 of a possible 80 games, and when he was able to play his performance was less than stellar. Claiborne managed to have the best stretch of his career in 2016 with the Cowboys, but still only managed to play in seven games due to injuries. The Cowboys did not offer him a new contract and Claiborne hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The Jets signed Claiborne to a one year “prove it” deal for $5 million and immediately installed him as their top outside cornerback.
In the first part of the 2017 season Claiborne often played well and appeared to be on the way to proving it and earning a more lucrative long term deal. However, Claiborne was injured once again, this time injuring his foot, and although he has only missed one game, his performance since the injury has greatly suffered.
This week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers presents a big challenge for Morris Claiborne. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was held in check by the Chiefs last week, but the prior four games Rivers was on fire, throwing for more than 1350 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in leading the Chargers to a four game winning streak. Rivers’ favorite target is wide receiver Keenan Allen, who played the best football of his career during that four game winning streak. Over those four games Allen caught 39 passes for a ridiculous 547 yards and four touchdowns. That absurd level of production vaulted Allen into the NFL’s top four in receiving yards, and he is undoubtedly one of the best receivers the Jets have faced all year.
If the Jets are to have any chance to win this game, Morris Claiborne will need to break out of his recent slump and hold Keenan Allen in check. A performance like Allen has been producing on a regular basis recently will likely put the offense-challenged Jets in too big of a hole to climb out of. How Claiborne measures up against Allen in this game may go a long way towards determining the outcome. This won’t be easy; Claiborne will likely be tested early and often. But this is the kind of challenge Claiborne needs to master to prove he is worth re-signing.
Sunday’s contest against the Chargers presents a major challenge for the Jets number one cornerback. A Pro Bowl quarterback throwing to a Pro Bowl receiver may spell trouble for Morris Claiborne and the Jets defense. If Claiborne is successful in holding Allen in check the Jets should have an opportunity to steal a win at home against a quality opponent. If Allen dominates the matchup the Jets will likely lose and Claiborne may be playing himself off the team for 2018. Morris Claiborne, this is your chance to do what every elite athlete yearns for: match up against one of the best and emerge the better man. This is your time in the spotlight. This is your chance to shine for the Jets. Time to state your case to be a part of the Jets future. May you shine brightly on Sunday against the Chargers.