With just one starting-caliber cornerback on the roster signed beyond 2020, it is imperative that the Dallas Cowboys address their future at this spot.
The Dallas Cowboys secondary has been one of their biggest weak spots for longer than I care to remember. With a painfully questionable past, an equally uncertain future looms just as large.
It certainly has not been for a lack of effort when it comes to curing the plague of mediocrity that has surrounded this position. Since 2012, the Dallas Cowboys have chosen 14 different cornerbacks or safeties via the draft. They have also spent big money in free agency, yet nothing has really worked.
The only member of the Dallas Cowboys secondary to make a Pro Bowl for this team in the past decade was cornerback Byron Jones in 2018. This offseason, Jones took his talents to South Beach, becoming the highest-paid corner in the league as the Miami Dolphins signed him for five years and $82.5 million.
Oddly enough, several guys who came through the organization ended up playing better once they left. Morris Claiborne, B.W. Webb, Terrance Mitchell, and Brandon Carr all experienced upticks in their career path after moving on from Big D.
It would not be surprising to find out that the Jason Garrett regime stifled growth. Even when a coach with a strong resume was brought in, the move failed as Kris Richard had to mute his style to fit into Rod Marinelli’s scheme. The past is the past, however. It’s the future that the Dallas Cowboys must focus on immediately.
If the Cowboys do nothing else to address this position, they would likely start Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown at cornerback. The two starting safeties would be Xavier Woods and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Only Brown and Woods is guaranteed to be on the roster in 2021.
When 60% of your starting lineup is free to move on elsewhere, that’s concerning. When 100% of your starting lineup needs to play better than they did the previous season, that’s problematic.
Woods and Lewis were the only two players who were on the team last year who played decently. In fairness to Brown, the huge majority of his season was lost to injury but it was not like he played lights out in 2018, so there’s that.
Awuzie is probably the one Dallas Cowboy coming into the 2020 season that needs to improve the most. If he played last year how he finished the 2018 season, the 2019 Dallas Cowboys would have been a much different team.
Lewis stands to gain the most from the coaching change. For some inexplicable reason, he has spent the majority of his career in the doghouse. At times, it has felt like he has only played out of necessity. Of course, when he does play, he usually is making plays so hopefully, more playing time will equate to more production.
In a perfect world, all five guys would improve upon their play so much so that the Cowboys are forced to place a franchise tag on one of them and sign another. Given the history of this team and the position, however, that’s probably just wishful thinking.
Thankfully, the Cowboys are armed with three picks in the top 100 of the 2020 Draft. It is imperative that at least one of those picks is either a cornerback or a safety. It would be even better if that pick could immediately contribute and upgrade the position.
The open secret is that this organization is hoping and praying that Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson falls to 17th overall two weeks from now. Demetrius Harvey of si.com, however, is reporting that he is a consensus top 10 pick. Obviously, that will not work for the Dallas Cowboys.
Still, other cornerbacks such as Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, Clemson’s A.J. Terrell, Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler, and Virginia’s Bryce Hall are all worthy top 100 picks. There are another five or six safeties who should garner attention during any of the three times Dallas will be on the clock.
All in all, two things are quite clear. The Dallas Cowboys need better play from who is currently on the roster. They also must come away with at least one, if not two rookies who can step in and contribute. The next two weeks will go a long way towards seeing the future of the defensive secondary. Hopefully, it is much brighter than the past’s darker days.