Could Dallas Cowboys’ Byron Jones Be The Next Deion Sanders?
By Jason Crouch
A few years back, those of us armchair quarterbacks who like to analyze NFL football made some casual observations about the Dallas Cowboys. They were playing average-to-good football, but they definitely needed help in two major areas: the offensive line, and the secondary.
Fast forward to 2015, and they now possess what is likely the very best offensive line in the league. During quarterback Tony Romo’s tenure with the team, they have been competitive on offense every year, as long as he is playing.
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The defense has been less consistent and, truth be told, it was abysmally bad in 2013, ranking dead last in yards allowed. They moved up to 19th overall last year. The secondary, however, still needs work to get this club to another Super Bowl.
One likely part of the solution going forward is Cowboys first-round draft pick Byron Jones, who is a flexible addition out of the University of Connecticut. The consensus is that he is able to play either cornerback or safety.
Dallas has lacked a sincere shutdown cornerback for years. Arguably, they have never replaced legendary cornerback Deion Sanders, who helped the team to its fifth championship in 1995 and left the team after the 1999 season.
It might be premature to start thinking of the impact that this young man could have before he has ever set foot on the field as a professional. However, his sheer athleticism could easily make him an integral part of this team for years to come.
Cowboys safety Barry Church had some glowing praise for his new teammate while speaking with KESN-FM 103.3 in May:
"“..he’s a freak athlete. He has tremendous hands. He never lets that ball bobble. I definitely see him out going up with the receivers for contested balls and bringing them down. He can jump with the best of them. He just seems like he’s super athletic and willing to learn. I’m excited for him.”"
This description sounds a lot like Sanders, who was one of the most talented athletes to ever play the position. This talent later landed him in the Hall of Fame. He was a longtime difference maker on the field. At UConn, Jones finished his college career with 223 tackles and 8 interceptions. Needless to say, he has huge potential right out of the gate to be the same type of player as Sanders.
Jones can indeed “jump with the best of them”. He holds the world record for the standing broad jump, at 12 feet. 3 inches. He is also just a half-inch away from the vertical jump record as well, having leapt 44.5” at the NFL combine.
You can’t run past him, because he’s faster than you. You can’t outjump him, because he can jump higher than you. He’s the smartest guy in the room, or one of them.”
Sanders was known for his blazing speed, which very few have ever matched. Jones ran an impressive 40 at the UConn pro day, clocking in with a time of 4.36 seconds. The two men are also almost exactly the same size, at 6’1” and roughly 200 pounds each.
More compliments for Jones from his former head coach, Bob Diaco of Connecticut, appeared in a New York Times article in April:
“He’s probably the best combination of speed, size and athleticism of all the positions in the draft,” Diaco said, “and he’s got character and intangibles to boot.” Diaco added: “You can’t run past him, because he’s faster than you. You can’t outjump him, because he can jump higher than you. He’s the smartest guy in the room, or one of them.”
If Jones lives up to his potential and stays healthy, he could become a fan favorite very quickly.
Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler who retired with 53 interceptions and two Super Bowl rings. A two-sport athlete, he was also the only person to ever play in a Super Bowl and a World Series. Jones played quarterback in high school, then moved to receiver, then later to defensive back. He was also a star in track and basketball.
Here’s hoping that Jones can have an immediate positive effect for the Cowboys.
Next: Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Battle: Tyler Patmon vs. Byron Jones