OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Orlando Scandrick's season-ending knee injury was a flashback for Dallas coach Jason Garrett to losing linebacker Sean Lee during the offseason a year earlier.
There is one difference, though. This time, the Cowboys think they have the cornerbacks to absorb the blow.
"With this position, we're less likely to go outside and look for Orlando Scandrick's replacement," Garrett said Wednesday, a day after Scandrick tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his right knee in practice at training camp. "We feel good about the guys we have on the team right now."
Undrafted second-year player Tyler Patmon is already being touted as the new slot cornerback, a position held by Scandrick before he emerged as the best cover guy on the team the past two seasons and played outside as well.
It's been an eventful camp for Patmon, who first emerged last year with a big game in the preseason at Miami to earn a roster spot.
He fought with All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant early in camp, was in the middle of several melees when the St. Louis Rams visited last week and now looks like he'll break camp Thursday with a shot to be the equivalent of a starter given how often three cornerbacks are on the field.
"I have worked in the slot since I got here last year," Patmon said. "I've always been ready to play the slot. This year that was my role. If something were to happen to Orlando, I was supposed to be able to go into the slot."
Patmon has shown the same feisty attitude as Scandrick, who was returning to the Dallas area for surgery Thursday or Friday.
"His strengths are the instinctive way he plays, his ability to make plays, just has a good feel for the game," Garrett said. "He's a great competitor, he's feisty, he fights, he battles and scratches and claws. So we're going to give him an opportunity in there first."
The Cowboys traded for linebacker Rolando McClain before training camp last year after Lee tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the first offseason workout. And McClain was a boost for an improving defense that helped Dallas win the NFC East at 12-4.
This time, not only has Patmon had a good camp, but the Cowboys have seen enough from first-round pick Byron Jones to believe he can be a factor as a rookie.
Scandrick's injury also clears the way for 2012 top 10 pick Morris Claiborne to reclaim a starting spot after three disappointing, injury-plagued seasons. Garrett said Claiborne, who was limited to four games last year because of a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, was likely to make his preseason debut Saturday night at home against Minnesota.
"He's worked very hard to come back from his injury," Garrett said. "He's got a good look about him. He looks good physically. I think his demeanor is really good and I think he's grown as a player."
Brandon Carr, who broke his right hand early in camp but is practicing again, is the other starting cornerback. He and Scandrick, in their eighth seasons, share the longest NFL tenure among Dallas defensive backs.
Before drafting Jones, Dallas claimed Corey White off waivers from New Orleans in the offseason.
"We'll keep moving forward with our plans and what we'd planned to be and what had we'd planned to do," secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. "It's just we lost a heckuva a player obviously. We've got to put another guy in there and keep moving."
Patmon appears to be that guy for now.
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