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Morris Claiborne fits Jets' scheme, but key question: Can he stay fit?

The Jets feel that Morris Claiborne can be the press-man corner that fits into their defensive scheme. Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire

Football is a sport where a player's value and production can vary based on scheme. Talent is talent, but sometimes a square peg-round hole situation can prevent a player from playing to his full potential. Personnel types are forever looking for the right scheme fits.

The New York Jets say they've accomplished that with Morris Claiborne, a press-man cornerback whom they believe was miscast in the Dallas Cowboys' zone-based scheme.

"I remember when he came out in the [2012] draft and we saw him as a press-man corner, and we were really high on him," defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said last week. "We studied him in the offseason in Dallas and there, [he played] kind of a lot of a Cover 2 scheme and pressed some. With more of a press scheme, we thought he'd fit well in our scheme with his press-man tools."

Ostensibly, the Jets signed Claiborne to replace Darrelle Revis, once regarded as the premier man-to-man corner in the NFL. They don't expect him to be Revis in his prime, but they're hopeful Claiborne can flourish in a system predicated on the corners playing press-man coverage at the line of scrimmage.

The question is, can he be a healthy man?

Claiborne, ticketed for stardom after being drafted sixth overall by the Cowboys, has missed 33 of 80 games because of a variety of injuries: Dislocated shoulder, separated shoulder, torn patellar tendon, torn groin and multiple hamstring issues. He has missed the equivalent of two full seasons, crushing his value on the open market. He landed a prove-it deal -- one year, $5 million, which includes $500,000 in game-by-game roster bonuses.

Claiborne is only 27 years old, far from washed up, but he comes with that dreaded label: "Fragile: Handle With Care." On a roster filled with No. 3 and No. 4 corners, with no proven No. 1 and No. 2s, the Jets need him to lead the way.

It starts by staying out of the trainer's room.

"We talked about it when he came in on his visit, and he's conscious of it," Rodgers said. "He's just got to take better care of his body. We all understand football is a contact sport, they get banged up. We're not shying away from anything with him, he's going out there and we're going to play."

For his part, Claiborne has expressed supreme confidence, telling the New York Post last week, "I feel like I can be the No. 1 corner in this league if I'm healthy ... when I'm healthy. When I'm out there playing and I'm healthy and I'm on my game, I don't feel like there is anybody better than me."

The Jets will sign up for some of that.