Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones Will Make An Impact In ’15
Ah, the luxury of debating which of three first-round rated talents that will best impact your team as rookies in 2015.
Your Dallas Cowboys have this extremely rare honor as the current offseason begins to evolve into more of a preseason feel in the coming weeks.
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This happens when you land a supremely athletic defensive back in round one of the NFL draft, grab a free-falling, yet devastatingly talented, pass rusher in round two – and then sweet-talk one of the top offensive linemen coming out of college into joining your football team as a somehow undrafted free agent that went unselected because the NFL, collectively speaking, thought it saw a ghost.
Yes, the debate rages already as to which of the Dallas Cowboys top three rookie additions acquired earlier this month will make the biggest splash next season.
Is it defensive end Randy Gregory of Nebraska?
Or is it offensive lineman La’el Collins out of LSU?
My money is on first-round draft choice Byron Jones of Connecticut, that freakishly athletic cornerback/safety prospect that seems to have faded somewhat due to the subsequent additions of Gregory and Collins.
Don’t get me wrong, Gregory will get his opportunities right away and Collins may very well force himself into the starting lineup by the time real football begins in early September.
But Jones might be in the best position of anybody.
It’s quite clear that the cornerback position might be the most unstable of any other on the Dallas roster. Yes, the Cowboys have guys that play the position, but exactly who is on the field most often is anybody’s guess at the present time.
Last year’s opening day starting duo of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr likely won’t maintain that distinction in ’15.
Carr is likely to be released, unless he accepts a significant pay cut to remain with the Cowboys.
Claiborne, still recovering from major injury sustained early last season, isn’t expected to be ready for Week One no matter how optimistic you might be that the outrageously expensive corner out of LSU is destined to turn his career around next season.
Having said that, it’s almost a certainty that Jones sees playing time right away – and that doesn’t necessarily mean at cornerback.
Jones is said to have the versatility to play either corner or safety, and it’s not like pushing the likes of incumbents Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox is an impossibility.
If you add up the top three cornerback positions, each having a “starting quality” to them, along with the two safety spots, one can simply ask whether or not Jones fits into any of the top five DB positions.
Right now, I have to think that he does.
If Claiborne was healthy and was also expected to participate in an entire training camp for the first time this summer, it might be different.
If Carr wasn’t so expensive, this too could change the immediate outlook for Jones as a “sooner-than-later” player, rookie or not.
But given the circumstances, Jones almost has to play somewhere as early as Week One against the New York Giants.
Training camp should tell us everything we need to know about where Jones might be, at least with respect to his ability to quickly make the transition from college to the pros.
At some point the Cowboys will stop starting a rookie offensive lineman, especially since they now have possibly the best line in football. This is why Collins may have a lesser chance in playing enough as a rookie to make the biggest impact next season.
Even without free-agent veteran Greg Hardy‘s signing two month ago, Gregory figures to at least see plenty of pass rushing opportunities. This will be true given Hardy’s expected 10-game suspension and also considering how poorly Dallas rushed opposing quarterbacks last season.
But Jones is really in the driver’s seat as far as playing right away and putting himself in the best position to help elevate a defense that finished 14th in the NFL last year – 26th overall against the pass.
With a regular season schedule that features opposing quarterbacks like Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and two games against Eli Manning of the Giants, Jones should see plenty of balls thrown his way in order to make that impact that his draft status suggests.
Next: Morning Links: Extra Point Changes, Cornerback Concerns