Jason Garrett: Byron Jones Could Play Cornerback Or Free Safety


During a press conference directly following the completion of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett spoke glowingly about his newest player. Just moments earlier, the Cowboys selected cornerback Byron Jones out of Connecticut with their top selection.

Although viewed as one of the top cornerbacks in this draft class, Garrett expressed the option of playing Jones at free safety as well. And that versatility was one of his top traits.

"“A lot of times you’ll take a player and you’ll project him to another position, he has the physical traits to go be this,” Garrett told a room full of reporters Thursday night at Valley Ranch. “(Jones) has the physical traits to go play safety even though he’s played corner the last couple years. But what gives us a lot of confidence is you see him play free safety for two years as a starter. They had two really good corners when he was a young player coming in to school there, so they wanted to get him out on the field so they played him at safety. So, you see that tape. You like what you see on that tape as a young player. So I do believe it’s a realistic projection for him to play corner in this league and to play free safety in this league. He has the athletic ability. He has the experience. And he’s one of those guys you really think has a great upside.”"

During his first two seasons at UConn, Jones recorded a total of 138 tackles and three interceptions at free safety.

In his last two seasons, he compiled 84 total tackles and five interceptions at cornerback, playing in five less games due to a shoulder injury.

Here’s what Garrett had to say when ask about which position Jones would start at as a rookie:

"“We’ll have those conversations. We do anticipate starting out as a cornerback. And then depending on how the health of the secondary is, the opportunity to move him to safety is certainly realistic. And Mo Claiborne is someone who’s worked very hard, We are hopeful that he can come back and get to the level we think he’s capable of playing at. And again, his flexibility, his athletic ability, his experience, talking about Byron Jones, gives you a chance to play a couple different spots.”"

Unfortunately, the Cowboys have needs at both corner and safety. Starting cornerback Brandon Carr is expected to be offered a pay cut later this offseason.

The other starting cornerback, veteran Orlando Scandrick, could decide to hold out for more money, as he recently missed of a voluntary workout. And former first round selection Morris Claiborne is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury and will be in the final year of his rookie deal.

The Cowboys did add veteran corner Corey White this offseason, to help offset the loss of Sterling Moore. And 2014 undrafted free agent Tyler Patmon will return for his second season. Still, the cornerback situation in Dallas is far from stable.

As for the safety positions, starters Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox both play like strong safeties. Each is excellent against the run and hard-hitting tacklers. But they also both struggle in coverage and are not considered playmakers.

It appears the Cowboys are going to prepare Jones to play both positions this offseason and use him to fill-in where needed. Dallas did something similar with their 2014 fourth round selection, linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

The Cowboys trained Hitchens to play all three linebacker positions last offseason. And it worked out very well as Dallas’ linebacker crops was riddled with injuries all year. Hitchens was able to fill those voids throughout the year, helping to propel the Cowboys into the postseason.

Next: Jerry Jones On Randy Gregory - Never Tempted