Is this the year former Dallas Cowboys first round draft selection Byron Jones steps up his game from good to special at the safety position?
Unless you are a potential transcendent player, safeties are rarely taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Although initially believed to be a cornerback candidate, the Dallas Cowboys have now cemented 2015 first round selection Byron Jones at safety. And although the young defender has been good at the position, he has yet to be special.
Entering his third season in Dallas, Jones has now been handed the keys to the Cowboys secondary. With the exodus of veterans like safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox and corners like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the onus of leadership now sits squarely on the 24-year old’s broad shoulders.
During his first two years in Dallas, Jones has been a solid defender. In that span, the 24-year old has recorded 154 tackles, 19 pass defends and a forced fumble. His 6’0, 199 pound frame combined with his unique athletic abilities allow the safety to cover both wide receivers and tight ends with relative ease.
Despite Jones’ tremendous physical tools, the one area where he really lacks is as a playmaker. In his two seasons in Dallas, he’s recorded just one interception. It’s not a big surprise considering Jones had just eight total interceptions in four years at Connecticut. But the Cowboys certainly hoped it was an area he could improve at the NFL level.
And according to one Cowboys insider, Jones appears to be taking steps this year to become that ballhawk, in order to take his game to the next level.
"“Jones has been a revelation early in camp,” wrote Todd Archer for ESPN.com recently. “His offseason work in improving his ball skills has paid off. Wherever and whenever he could, he caught passes. He even shagged flies during batting practice with the Frisco RoughRiders. He has just one pick in his first two seasons, but with the athletic additions to the secondary, Jones will be allowed to play a centerfield type of role that will give him the chance to make more plays on the ball.”"
Jones splashed onto the national scene after breaking the World Record for the standing broad jump at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, jumping an incredible 12-feet, 3 inches. That Olympic-level athleticism rocketed the UConn defensive back into the first round of the draft, and to the Cowboys roster at the 27th overall pick.
Unfortunately, being drafted that high comes with an unrealistic set of expectations. Some of which Byron Jones has been able to live up to. If Jones is able to come away with more takeaways in 2017, that could be the step up he needs to reach Pro Bowl-level status.