Mike McCarthy's comments on Juanyeh Thomas spell doom for Cowboys draft pick

Mike McCarthy's comments do not bode well for a Cowboys draft pick.
Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys
Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the best draft-and-develop teams in the NFL. Mike McCarthy continually speaks glowingly of the bottom of the depth chart, so it stands to reason that some of those players will finally get extensive playing time in 2024.

Players who could be in line for more snaps include third-year safety Juanyeh Thomas, second-year wide receiver Jalen Brooks and second-year tight end John Stephens Jr., who was on track to make the 53-man roster last year amid a strong training camp before he suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game.

Cowboys fans want all three players to see the field more, but Thomas' lack of playing time last season in particular was viewed as a gross oversight. With Dan Quinn gone, Thomas could be headed for a bigger role under new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

That will reveal itself in training camp, but it seems McCarthy has learned that Thomas is too talented to ride the bench. While good news for Thomas, McCarthy's comments don't bode well for a recent Cowboys draft pick.

Mike McCarthy's praise of Juanyeh Thomas is bad news for Cowboys draft pick Israel Mukuamu

"I thought he made a big jump last year," McCarthy said. "He's been dynamic on special teams. Juanyeh just has so much personality. When he was given an opportunity at safety, he stepped up. Juanyeh is really a great example of a young player that's excelled with every opportunity he's been given. It'd be awesome to see him take another step."

McCarthy went on to compliment Thomas' energy and playing style. He even said that players gravitate toward Thomas' personality.

What does this mean for Israel Mukuamu? A sixth-round pick in 2021, Mukuamu stands to benefit from Quinn's departure. He hardly played as a rookie, but made a big leap in year two as far as playing time. In a pleasant surprise, Mukuamu was even a catalyst in the Cowboys' playoff win over the Buccaneers that season. He locked down star wide receiver Chris Godwin in the slot.

Many believed Mukuamu earned a bigger role with that performance -- potentially as a slot cornerback -- but he disappeared this past season. Though active for 14 games, Mukuamu logged just 75 defensive snaps compared to 153 the previous season. He saw most of his action on special teams. Meanwhile, Thomas played a healthy 190 snaps on defense.

Cowboys fans are high on Mukuamu's potential, but it's clear that Thomas is ahead of him in the safety pecking order. Furthermore, Markquese Belle is moving back to safety after he filled in at linebacker in 2023. While Jayron Kearse is gone, Mukuamu is at best fifth on the depth chart.

Cornerback is Mukuamu's easiest path to playing time on Zimmer's defense. Fortunately, the room is thin behind starters Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland and Jourdan Lewis. There might be an opening for Mukuamu as the backup nickel behind Lewis, but that's assuming Zimmer plays him at corner, which is no guarantee.

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