Dallas Cowboys: Taking a look at the defensive depth
By Brad Austin
Quality depth is a necessity for NFL success. For the Dallas Cowboys to return to the playoffs, second team defenders will play a key role.
With two weeks left until the first training camp practice, the Dallas Cowboys starting defense remains unsettled. Predicting the chief back-ups is an even trickier feat.
NFL teams often only go as far as the quality of their depth. In 2017, Dallas learned this the hard way when left tackle Tyron Smith missed time. The sackfest that ensued in Atlanta is painful to recall and equally hard to forget.
The good news is the Cowboys have taken steps to mitigate damage from potential defensive injuries. Yet up to this point, they’ve also grossly neglected one key area.
Let’s take a look at the potential second team players for the Dallas defense.
- 3-TECHNIQUE – JIHAD WARD (6-5, 295)
- 1-TECHNIQUE – BRIAN PRICE (6-3, 318)
ANALYSIS: Dallas traded WR Ryan Switzer to secure Ward. The move must provide immediate dividends to cover for David Irving‘s 4-game suspension. Early reports sound promising, but only full contact success in August will hold water. Maliek Collins is expected to make a late camp return from a broken foot. If he is delayed, Price would also see early starting snaps.
- LEFT – KONY EALY (6-4, 275)
- RIGHT – TACO CHARLTON (6-6, 270)
ANALYSIS: Ealy was a nice off-season addition to add veteran starting experience to the strong side rotation. He plays the run well and recorded 15 sacks over the last four seasons. 2017 first round pick Charlton began to get his sea legs and show up at the end of his rookie season. Both players are talented and should contribute quality snaps when their number is called.
- STRONG – DAMIEN WILSON (6-1, 245)
- MIDDLE – CHRIS COVINGTON (6-2, 245)
- WEAK – JOE THOMAS (6-1, 227)
ANALYSIS: The positions assigned above are out of necessity. Injuries would rotate starters around to facilitate bringing the best depth player off the bench. Wilson started at SAM last year. Covington’s big frame is a better fit for MIKE. Thomas is the more agile match for WILL.
- LEFT – ANTHONY BROWN (5-11, 196)
- RIGHT – MARQUEZ WHITE (6-0, 190)
- SLOT – DUKE THOMAS (5-10, 192)
ANALYSIS: Brown has logged plenty of snaps at left corner in his time in Dallas. Hopefully, he will bounce back after a second-year decline. Thomas is a better cover corner than White, but the Cowboys new preference for outside corners favors height. Either way, I’d bet Thomas would see the field before White regardless of alignment.
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- STRONG – KAVON FRAZIER (6-0, 220)
- FREE – JAMEILL SHOWERS (6-2, 222) -OR- MARQUESTON HUFF (5-11, 196)
ANALYSIS: Talk about leaving the cupboard bare. Frazier can play the strong spot well enough but has no ability to play free. So the depth options at free safety are a 222-pound converted quarterback and a player who’s been signed and cut by five teams since 2014? Dallas must add a quality veteran before September or one injury will again shuffle Byron Jones from cornerback to safety and further stunt any improvement.