The Dallas Cowboys addressed their primary defensive needs in the 2017 NFL Draft. In reality, we won’t know what they have until Week 1 when they play.
It’s the Tuesday after draft weekend, and Dallas Cowboys fans have an awful lot to be excited about.
After all, the Cowboys personnel department and front office went into the draft with a game plan and seemingly executed it effectively.
That game plan was clearly to get better defensively- find a potential starter at weak side defensive end, get younger and more talented at cornerback, and find a valuable safety prospect to add to the mix to compete for a starting job.
Check, check, and check.
Dallas selected Taco Charlton, a six foot six inch and surprisingly lean 275 pound defensive end from Michigan, with the 28th overall pick in the first round. While many, including myself, projected Taco to be a left defensive end playing the strong side and being more of a power rusher- Dallas views him as a pure pass rusher at right end.
In the second round, Dallas watched secondary player after secondary player come off the board while holding tight and waiting for their turn to pick.
And when selection number 60 came along, they were thrilled to see their guy, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado, still sitting there on the board. Awuzie is a versatile corner that can play both inside in the slot and outside and has a fierce competitive nature and excellent cover skills. He has the capability of being a great tackler as well and shows glimpses of that.
Then round three came along, and Dallas took a little bit of a risk on an undersized corner that plays with an attitude that makes him seem seven feet tall with exceptional ball skills- Jourdan Lewis from Michigan. Lewis projects to be one of the best slot corners in this draft because of how tenacious he is with finishing plays and he knows how to get his hands on the football.
There is however, a bit of a risk with Lewis being that he has a pending court date set for late July for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. The Cowboys must feel good about his chances to get the charges dropped or else they wouldn’t have selected the talented corner with the 92nd pick in the draft with so many other talented players still on the board.
After selecting a more-quick-than-fast and elusive slot receiver in Cole Beasley clone Ryan Switzer out of North Carolina in the fourth round, Dallas shifted their eyes back to the defensive side of the ball.
The Cowboys had a high grade on safety Xavier Woods out of Lousiana Tech, a player they considered taking in the fourth round when they selected Switzer.
Being that Dallas didn’t have a fifth round pick, they waited and saw that Woods was still on the board as the sixth round came along. Jerry Jones and company then made a move to get into the early 6th so they can take the extremely versatile safety.
Woods is considered a free safety but the great thing about him is how exceptionally well rounded he is as a player. He can play in the box, he can play single high, and he can be used as a blitzer. He also has quite a knack for forcing turnovers. Xavier can even cover receivers in the slot if needed.
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I believe that Xavier Woods and Cowboys safety Byron Jones can be on the field at the same time and can play interchangeable roles- where they both can excel when playing deep in cover 2 but will give Dallas coaches freedom to disguise coverages and mix things up when it comes to which safety is playing deep and which one is up near the line of scrimmage when they run man or cover 3.
All of this is exciting stuff to discuss. While it is still the offseason, everyone is anxious to look at draft grades and see how the Cowboys did this past weekend.
In reality, no one has a clue how well Dallas addressed their needs yet.
On paper it looks like Dallas now has a very solid defensive line rotation with a potential war daddy in Taco Charlton, at least five corners that present versatility, and a handful of safeties to compete for the starting jobs as the last line of defense for this team.
But paper means jack squat when the pads come on and they step on that field come September 10th.
It’s all fine and dandy to be excited about what Dallas did with getting younger, cheaper, and more talented at positions that have been the Achilles heel of this team for several seasons.
But when Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram all line up on the field together for the New York Giants in AT&T Stadium on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, the real test begins.
I really hope that the Dallas staff decides to throw these rookies into the fire and let them face that challenge, because there won’t be many teams with four legitimate receiving threats on the field as dangerous as the New York Giants group this team will see in the season opener.
So when is a good time to really start the grading process for how Dallas did? Let’s go with September 11th and see how it goes from there.