A forgotten man in the Dallas Cowboys secondary under the previous coaching regime, will Jourdan Lewis have a career-resurgence in 2020?
That shakeup figures to have a ripple effect that will have a drastic impact on the Cowboys’ roster and the gameplan in 2020. One area of the team that could see the most change is the defensive secondary.
Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month. And there are some doubts whether the Cowboys will be aggressive enough to re-sign their 2015 first-round selection due, in part, to his severe lack of takeaways. Jones has recorded just two interceptions in his five-year NFL career.
Joining Jones as a scheduled free agent in March is cornerback, Anthony Brown. A sixth-round selection out of the Cowboys’ now-legendary 2016 draft class, Brown has started a combined 33 games in four seasons, sticking mainly to the slot but being a key reserve along the outside as well.
The other two notable names at cornerback are Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Both were the second and third-round selections for Dallas in the 2017 NFL Draft respectively. Awuize has been a consistent starter along the outside paired with Byron Jones over the past two seasons.
While the 5-foot-10, 195 pound Lewis has struggled to find a consistent role under former passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard. The former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator had a pivotal role during the Legion of Boom era in the Emerald City. And Richard’s preference for much-taller defensive backs often left the diminutive Lewis with limited opportunities.
During his rookie season, Lewis played a total of 746 defensive snaps and was on the field 71.39 percent of the time the defense was playing. That number dropped drastically to just 187 total defensive snaps (18.26) in 2018 in Richard’s first season in Dallas. Last year, Lewis’ numbers bounced back up to 589 snaps (54.59) with Brown landing on Injured Reserve with a triceps injury in mid-November.
Despite the fluctuating snaps, Lewis was still able to record four interceptions over the past three seasons. That includes two picks just last year, which was tied for the most on the team. It was size, not talent, that seemed to limit the third-rounder with the former coaching staff. But the recent regime change could mean a fresh start for Lewis.
Here’s how DallasCowboys.com Senior Writer Rob Phillips responded to a recent mailbag question on the team’s official website about possible breakout players in 2020.
"“Defensively, there are so many unknowns because of expiring contracts. I’ll go with Jourdan Lewis, who earned more playing time at cornerback last season. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan spoke Monday about the importance of takeaways, and Lewis usually seems to find the football.”"
According to Nolan, the Cowboys will now prioritize talent over scheme. Barring free agency additions and possible high draft picks at cornerback, this new philosophy means Lewis should really be a lock to start for the secondary in Dallas based solely on his talent.
Both Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis figure to play big roles in the Dallas Cowboy’ secondary in 2020. Especially if the team opts to move on from free agents Byron Jones and Anthony Brown this offseason. But both Awuzie and Lewis are in the final year of their rookie contracts in Dallas. So the Cowboys’ secondary could experience some major changes very soon.