The case for keeping Cowboys Byron Jones at corner
We make the case for the Dallas Cowboys keeping the versatile Byron Jones at cornerback rather than moving him to safety.
Last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys chose to address needs on their defense in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by selecting Connecticut defensive back Byron Jones 27th overall. Although the Cowboys started Jones at cornerback for a majority of the season, the team is expected to give the talented rookie a permanent spot at safety this year. But it might be better for this defense overall if they simply keep him at corner. And here’s why…
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was the team’s best defensive back in coverage last year. While starting cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr rated out as two of the worst. It only makes sense that you keep your best coverage guy at corner.
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Secondly, the cornerback position is more valuable than safety in the NFL. Therefore, they cost much more. Sure, the Cowboys could desperately use a replacement for free safety J.J. Wilcox, who rated out as one of the worst players at his position in the NFL last season. But obtaining a free agent or a draft selection at safety should cost you much less than a top-tier cornerback would.
Speaking of free agents, there are several talented players at the safety position scheduled to hit the open market in March. Those veterans include Eric Weddle, Eric Berry, Reggie Nelson, and Walter Thurmond just to name a few. Some of them are older players, but age at safety doesn’t always equate to a slow down in performance like it does say for the running back position.
Outside of his excellent coverage skills, I’m not sure Jones has demonstrated the proper abilities needed to play the position. In his first season in the NFL, the rookie’s biggest struggle came in defensing against the run. Recording seven missed tackles, Jones lacked the explosive pop you’d expect to see from a top-notch safety as well. Last year, the rookie recorded 66 tackles and had eight passes defended. Strong safety Barry Church had 117 tackles in 2015.
Finally, keeping Jones at cornerback would allow the Cowboys to move on from both Carr and Claiborne. The latter is a unrestricted free agent. While Carr is one of the most overpaid, under-performing players in all of the NFL. And the team simply needs to get out from under his bloated salary.
With Jones firmly in place at corner, veteran Orlando Scandrick will bookend a solid starting duo in the secondary. And young defensive backs Ayodeji Olatoye and Terrance Mitchell should provide some quality depth while covering the slot as well.
The Dallas Cowboys need quality cornerback play more than they need a safety right now. Until better options arrive, I’m not sure you risk moving your best cover corner for what has been only average safety play by Jones so far.
Next: 2016 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Senior Bowl Edition
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