Cowboys need Byron Jones to be better than a Pro Bowler
The Dallas Cowboys need safety Byron Jones to establish himself as the defensive MVP. Is he ready for a breakout role in 2016?
Call me old fashion, but I don’t think it’s smart to engineer a defense by drafting talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the decision to draft running back Ezekiel Elliott with the 2016 fourth overall pick. I just think that in order to get better on defense, a team should slide their NFL Draft cards with defensive skilled names.
The blueprint to hold the ball hostage with an excellent running game and out of this world offensive line talent is understandable. I just don’t think it’s sustainable. There are going to be problems — leaks to the plan, if you will.
Instead of engaging in an all out assault plan on opposing quarterbacks, running backs and offensive coordinators, the current scheme is to keep them on the sidelines with their digital tablets, staring at the clock and wondering when they’ll get their chance to walk on the field.
But what if that plan doesn’t work (and for 16 NFL games or more, you better plan for just that)? What if the Cowboys dwindle the clock only to find the other team attacking the Dallas defense with swiftness and ease to match out the score?
It will come down to the old fashion way to settle the score on Sunday. But are the Dallas Cowboys prepared for this type of warfare?
I’m not convinced.
The Boys are already out with one defensive tackle, this year’s third rounder Maliek Collins. Collins is expected to miss the remaining summer with a broken foot, leaving the team with a miss opportunity to train and prep the rookie for a 16-game haul.
Pass rushers in Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are expected to start the first four games out of uniform due to pending suspensions.
And let’s not forget the Cowboys’ decision to pass up defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who could have fortified a unit that lacked in play-making ability and takeaways last season.
But despite all the gloom on the defensive side of the ball, one name stands out: Byron Jones.
The young 23-year-old is just getting started.
In 16 games last year, he started 11 of them. He finished the 2015 campaign with 66 tackles and eight pass deflections.
The 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft showed his versatile coverage ability by rolling in as a cornerback or a safety, playing well overall, which garnered appreciation from both the coaches and his teammates. In addition, he continued to handle special teams duty.
2016 is a big year for Jones. Not just because of the large expectations, but because of what the Cowboys will demand of him. Pro Bowl is a given measuring stick. With Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr on the field with him, a team MVP type performance is closer to what the Cowboys actually need.
It would have been nice to tag Ramsey along with Jones in the backfield. But that won’t happen. And it’ll be okay, especially if Jones, who started seven games at safety last season, shapes into a MVP type player like Darren Woodson of the 1990’s.
While that is a high bar to set on the Connecticut native, the six-foot former Huskies college star has already shown real NFL flashes, reliability, smarts, and toughness.
In a Week 15 loss to the New York Jets last season, Jones dislocated his left knee after starting at cornerback for Morris Claiborne. Instead of leaving the game, or even the sidelines for that matter, Jones played doctor by popping the knee back in.
He played another 71 plays, but the Cowboys lost 19-16.
It’ll take more than Jones’ toughness to lift the Cowboys defense in 2016. A Pro Bowl performance is expected.
MVP level play, though, is the type of compensation the Dallas Cowboys are looking to cash in on.
Next: New coaches shaking up Cowboys defensive secondary
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