Dallas Cowboys: Young defender should ‘wow’ in second season
After suffering through a hamstring injury for much of last season, this second-year Dallas Cowboys defender appears to be on the cusp of a breakout season.
A year after the Dallas Cowboys injected a youth revolution into the vein of their defensive secondary, no one longs for names like former starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. And that’s due to a talented class of rookie defenders selected by Dallas in the 2017 NFL Draft.
In fact, the Cowboys drafted four defensive backs in that class. Those prospects being Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis in the third and two sixth rounders, La Tech’s Xavier Woods and Florida State’s Marquez White.
Both Awuzie and Lewis were the Cowboys’ starting outside cornerbacks by the end of their rookie seasons. Woods ended up spending a lot of his time covering the slot as a safety. And White spent his first year on the practice squad.
Out if this group, it was really Lewis who shined early. That was mainly due to the fact Awuzie was sidelined for much of the season dealing with a hamstring injury.
But this offseason, the Cowboys elected to move safety Byron Jones to outside corner. And during early OTA’s, Jones and Awuzie have been running with the first team along the outside, with Lewis surprisingly running with the twos. Although many thought Jourdan would be a better slot corner, former sixth rounder Anthony Brown has been practicing at that position in the starting lineup this offseason.
Under new defensive backs’ coach Kris Richard, the man formerly at the helm of the Legion of Boom in Seattle, the Cowboys’ secondary is coveting size more than ever. With Awuzie measuring 6-0, 202 pounds and having played corner, safety and linebacker in college, he clearly gets the nod over the 5-10, 195 pound Lewis, who will have to prove himself to Richard.
Surprisingly, it’s Awuzie that has emerged as a likely candidate to have a breakout second season. And based on what we saw from him late last year, “Cheedo” could end up being one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
"“The former Colorado product played a whopping 252 defensive snaps, 92 percent of which at left outside cornerback, in Dallas’ final five regular season contests after playing just 57 snaps in their first 11 games,” wrote Austin Gayle for Pro Football Focus. “Awuzie allowed just 6.9 yards per reception allowed, ranking fifth among cornerbacks with at least 10 receptions allowed in said span.”"
Last season, Awuzie posted 25 tackles, seven pass defends and a touchdown in 10 game appearances. During his last two years at Colorado, he recorded a combined 154 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 27 pass defends, three forced fumbles and three interceptions.
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If Chidobe Awuzie can manage to stay healthy in his second season, he has a real chance to ‘wow’ both fans and the entire league. Although we’ve only seen a small sample size, the 23-year old defender certainly made the most of his time on the field last season. Let’s hope that trend continues in 2018.