OXNARD, Calif. -- Through 13 training-camp practices, the Dallas Cowboys are still waiting for their top three corners to practice together.
Orlando Scandrick has been the only constant. Morris Claiborne missed three practices with tendinitis in his knee and is working back into full work. Brandon Carr missed the first 15 days of camp to be with his ailing mother and stay with family after her death.
He took part in his first practice on Saturday but he was not in pads.
As the Cowboys look to move past 2013 defensively and improve -- even a little bit -- in 2014, the cornerbacks will be the centerpiece of the defense.
“It’s a big part of what we’re trying,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “Our strength right now is that our corners are really good and we think we’ve got some good safeties. We can do some things with those guys to help us.”
Most defenses are built with pressure in mind, which is why pass rushers are so highly sought in the draft and free agent. The Denver Broncos were willing to guarantee DeMarcus Ware $20 million even though he was coming off a career-low six-sack seasons. The Cowboys were not willing to pay Ware a $12.25 million base salary, despite their lack of playmakers on the front seven.
In free agency the Cowboys added a tackle, Henry Melton, to replace Jason Hatcher, who had a team-high 11 sacks in 2013. They signed Jeremy Mincey to a modest free-agent deal. They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round, giving up their third-round pick to get him.
Lawrence is likely to miss the first 3-6 games of the regular season with a broken foot. Mincey is the starter at right defensive end, but is more of an inside rusher on third down. Linebacker Kyle Wilber moves to defensive end in the nickel defense.
Instead of relying on pressure to help the secondary, the Cowboys will rely on the secondary to help the pressure.
"If you get three of those guys healthy and going, it becomes a really good corner unit for your team and that makes a big difference," coach Jason Garrett said. "The impact of those guys pervades the rest of that defense. Obviously if they can cover well it helps the guys up front and you can play more isolated coverage and they can help you defend the run better. It’s really an important part of the success of our team going forward."