New sec­ondary isn’t much bet­ter with­out New­man

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By schuyler Dixon

iRV­iNG — The en­dur­ing im­age of cor­ner­back Ter­ence New­man’s nine sea­sons as a starter in Dal­las was get­ting hur­dled by a full­back in a sea­so­nend­ing loss to the New York Giants that kept the Cow­boys out of the play­offs.

His re­lease didn’t come un­til two months af­ter the Cow­boys fin­ished one of the worst sea­sons of pass de­fense in fran­chise his­tory. It might as well have been that cold night in New Jersey last Jan­uary.

“I pretty much fig­ured it was coming,” said New­man, who was dumped to avoid an $8 mil­lion hit against the Dal­las salary cap.

Nine months later, New­man is hav­ing a much bet­ter sea­son with the Cincin­nati Ben­gals and gets a chance Sun­day to play the team that drafted him fifth over­all in 2003. He will also see one of his re­place­ments — rookie Mor­ris Clai­borne, who was taken at No. 6, the high­est pick for the Cow­boys since get­ting New­man.

“A per­son can be bit­ter all they want, but it’s not go­ing to change any­thing,” New­man said. “I mean, I’m happy, play­ing pretty well, win­ning foot­ball games, so that’s my No. 1 fo­cus. There’s no rea­son for me to be bit­ter.”

Still, the end­ing wasn’t pretty for a player who started 131 of his 133 games and had 32 in­ter­cep­tions in Dal­las, tied with line­backer Lee Roy Jor­dan for sev­enth in fran­chise his­tory.

There were sev­eral mo­ments last sea­son with New­man at the cen­ter of an ugly moment. The worst was Giants full­back Henry Hynoski look­ing like an Olympic hur­dler when he took a short pass in the open field and jumped over a flail­ing New­man, who had ducked to try to make the tackle. The Giants threw for 331 yards with­out an in­ter­cep­tion in a 31-14 win that started a Su­per Bowl­win­ning run.

Dal­las went home with a de­fense that al­lowed 3,903 pass­ing yards, just 25 shy of the record from 1983. The Cow­boys had a new co­or­di­na­tor in Rob Ryan, but the lock­out gave him lit­tle time to in­stall his com­pli­cated, at­tack­ing style. New­man, mean­while, bat­tled ham­string, neck and toe prob­lems and be­came the tar­get of op­pos­ing of­fenses.

The Cow­boys aren’t sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter in the sec­ondary this sea­son. They’re on pace to al­low more than 3,500 yards, and they have just five in­ter­cep­tions, well off last year’s pace. Dal­las is the only team in the league with­out a player who has at least two in­ter­cep­tions.

“I’ve got guys I know in that sec­ondary that I have a lot of re­spect for, so it’s not funny at all,” New­man said.

New­man leads the Ben­gals in pass breakups and in­ter­cepted Pey­ton Man­ning twice in the same game, bring­ing his ca­reer to­tal to 34. He’s fifth on the team with 58 tack­les and is right on the pace of his ca­reer high of 77 with the Cow­boys in 2010.

Michael KEAT­ING / ap

Af­ter a change of scenery, Ben­gals cor­ner­back Ter­ence New­man — who spent nine sea­sons with the Cow­boys — is lead­ing his new team in pass breakups.

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