Another season means yet another opportunity for players to make a name for themselves. Will this be the season for Dallas Cowboys corner Chidobe Awuzie?
I love seeing players make a name for themselves, especially when they are doubted and aren’t given credit. Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has been a reliable player since being drafted in 2017.
Regardless of his play, the former second-round pick was always overshadowed by now-former teammate Byron Jones. Can this be the year where Awuzie takes a step up and makes a name for himself?
He has had a good track record so far, improving every season for three consecutive years. While playing only 30 percent of the defensive snaps in his rookie season, Awuzie defended seven passes and made 25 tackles while intercepting one pass.
The following season, his snaps jumped up to 86 percent. That along with starts in 14 of 15 games played. The passes defended increased to 11, tackles up to 71, and yet again intercepted one pass.
The 2019 season saw 16 starts with 95 percent of defensive snaps. The corner’s best season yet saw him defend 14 passes and make 79 tackles, while yet again intercepting one pass. He also managed to force one fumble, make one tackle for a loss, and hit the opposing quarterback once.
The only knack one may have against Awuzie is that he has only three interceptions to his name. Then again, this was in a scheme that focused on playing the receiver rather than the ball.
In a new and more aggressive scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, things should change for the better. The 14 passes defended show he can get his hands on the ball. The next step is to come down with it, although it is easier said than done.
A season that sees him lining up against the top receiver should increase the number of targets thrown his way, but also increase the difficulty of locking the receiver down. Jones was previously occupying this position, and his departure now thrusts Awuzie to the top spot.
This may be what is needed to take his game to the next level. After showing that he can do a good job locking down secondary wideouts, let’s see what he can do against the top wideouts.
This season will see numerous top-notch receivers line up against him. Among them are the Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, the Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green, and the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones. Both Hopkins and Jones are arguably the best in the league, and a healthy Green can be in the conversation as well.
A season that consists of let’s say 80 tackles, 20 passes defended and three interceptions while playing the top dogs would put the underrated cornerback on the radar. It’s not a far fetch, considering it is only one more tackle, six more passes defended, and two more interceptions than he had in 2019.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a challenge and a hard one. I would not rule out the possibility of it happening though. He has good football IQ and is a good enough athlete to get it done, now it is time to see him go out and do it.
Getting help over the top will help as well. With another good season by safety Xavier Woods, the acquisition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and the possibility of drafting a high-profile safety prospect, Awuzie should feel comfortable knowing he has good help there for him.
I have a lot of optimism for Chidobe Awuzie taking another step up this season. The Dallas Cowboys are counting on him to lock down the passing game. If by chance Awuzie doesn’t step up, then it’s going to be interesting to see how Nolan addresses it.