Dallas Cowboys: Cornerback finally not a draft priority
By Brad Austin
The Dallas Cowboys spent the last three drafts desperately seeking an upgrade at corner. Finally prime draft picks can target other areas.
It seemed like an annual ritual. The Dallas Cowboys spent the last three offseasons frantically trying to shore up the corner position.
In 2015, they selected Byron Jones in the first round as a hybrid defensive back. However, the need at corner won out and he played there his first season.
The Cowboys didn’t draft corner Anthony Brown until the 6th round in 2016. Yet circumstances caused the draft delay instead of a lacking desire.
Let’s not forget Dallas was close to selecting corner Jalen Ramsey 4th overall instead of Ezekiel Elliott. The need was there, but the better player won out.
In 2017 upgrading at corner was an absolute must. Thus a second, third, and sixth round pick were used to address it.
INVESTING RESOURCES PAYS OFF
Injuries prevented high profile rookies Chidobe Awuzie (2nd round) and Jourdan Lewis (3rd round) from having an immediate impact.
In Week 14, the two finally paired together on the outside with fellow rookie safety Xavier Woods in the slot, and the transition paid off.
The rookie trio started each of the last four games. The Dallas defense allowed 10, 17, 14, and 0 points. Seattle scored 21 in Week 16, but one TD was defensive.
Opposing offenses were held to 228, 171, 60, and 149 passing yards. While only three passing touchdowns were allowed to wide receivers in the four games.
These weren’t elite passing offenses, but New York (19th), Oakland (16th), and Seattle (14th) aren’t scrubs either.
It’s safe to say Dallas has found a worthy starting caliber trio going forward.
EXPERIENCED VETS STILL ON HAND
A defense can never have enough starting caliber corners and the Cowboys have two more with much experience under contract next year.
Both Anthony Brown and Orlando Scandrick are scheduled to return. When healthy, Scandrick has always played best in slot. He should move back inside in 2018.
Brown regressed this year as an outside starter. He played admirably in nickel and dime last year and improved when demoted back to that role in 2017.
DON’T COUNT OUT THESE TWO
The Cowboys have two other young corners with potential. Duke Thomas led all Cowboys defensive backs in preseason stats.
With twelve tackles and a fumble recovery, Thomas was headed for meaningful snaps in the regular season. A late August injury halted that but he will return.
Add Thomas to Awuzie, Lewis, Woods (slot), Scandrick, and Brown. Dallas is already in good shape with solid depth before any additions.
2017 6th round pick Marquez White also will return to the corner mix for 2018. White didn’t make the 53-man roster cut, but was signed to the practice squad.
Without a lame veteran like Nolan Carroll eating up a spot this summer, White may be able to nudge onto the roster.
Next: 30 moments Dallas Cowboy fans should never forget
Some believe Dallas may part ways with Scandrick. I doubt his $5.3 million cap hit will be viewed as too steep to retain another capable corner.
It doesn’t hurt Scandrick can play both outside or slot if injuries bite into the numbers.
The youngsters provided enough quality play and hope to ward off corner panic. After gaining valuable experience, this group should be a bright spot on the defense.
Come draft time, there will be far more pressing defensive issues to address with prime picks (rounds 1-4).
Needs at linebacker, safety, and defensive line will outweigh any concerns at corner.