There has been a lot of talk this offseason surrounding the contract extensions of four Dallas Cowboys who are set to be free agents either next year or the year after that. With Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, and Byron Jones set to hit the free agent market in 2020, and Ezekiel Elliott becoming available in 2021, now's the time for those contract discussions to take place.
Much of the offseason contract discussion has revolved around the Dallas Cowboys' newest version of the triplets, Prescott, Cooper, and Elliott, while Byron Jones seems to be the odd man out.
It's more than likely that Byron Jones is having to wait his turn because of the hip injury that he's recovering from. The Cowboys focusing on their three offensive stars certainly doesn't help him either. It's more than likely that Jones gets a contract sometime in the next eight months, but there are several reasons why the Cowboys might let Jones walk when he becomes a free agent in 2020.
1. Lack of Turnovers
Turnovers aren't the only thing that matters when it comes to playing the cornerback position, but it's an important aspect of playing corner. Byron Jones in his four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys has only created four turnovers. He's had two interceptions and two forced fumbles splitting time between safety and corner before finding his home at cornerback in 2018.
Compared to the players with the top five cornerback contracts in the NFL, Byron Jones ranks well behind Xavien Howard, Josh Norman, Trumaine Johnson, Xavier Rhodes, and Patrick Peterson in interceptions since he came into the NFL in 2015. Compared to the same group of players, Jones ranks fourth in passes defended since 2015.
Jones passer rating when targeted was 85.5 in 2018, which when compared to the top five earners in the NFL at his position, ranks third in the league. That's really good, but still, there's something lacking in the way of turnovers.
Since 2015, each of those guys listed above has intercepted at least eight passes. three of them have double-digit interceptions.
Yes, Byron Jones made a position switch in 2018 when he moved from safety to cornerback, but if he's unable to begin showing an adept ability to intercept passes, it's going to be hard for the Dallas Cowboys to rationalize paying Jones a top-five cornerback contract. As a cover corner, he's really good, but what separates the really good from the great is their ability to create turnovers.
2. Jourdan Lewis Waiting in the Wings
The Dallas Cowboys have some seriously good depth at the cornerback position. It's so good, they have a potential starting corner who has a really hard time getting off the bench. With Byron Jones rehabbing his hip injury most of this offseason, third-year player Jourdan Lewis is getting the opportunity to show what he can do against the Dallas Cowboys first-team offense. And he's been showing out.
As I wrote last week, Lewis has been impressing in OTA and minicamp practices. He's been able to make life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys best two receivers; Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb.
There are many who analyze the Dallas Cowboys for a living who think that Jourdan Lewis could be the team's best cover corner, but with the premium that Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard places on his corners having length and size, Lewis has been on the outside looking in.
Despite being the fourth corner in 2018, he found a way to make an impact when the Cowboys deployed him against Alvin Kamara.
If Lewis' play this offseason continues into training camp and the preseason, the Dallas Cowboys will be forced to rethink their plans with regard to Byron Jones.
3. Kris Richard
One of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys have been able to be successful despite having big names along the defensive line, particularly at defensive tackle, is because they have one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL in Rod Marinelli. His ability to take guys from other team's practice squads and turn them into above average to great players is pretty incredible. It's one of the reasons he's had so much success in his time as a defensive coordinator. The same goes for Kris Richard.
Richard, from his time in Seattle, has always been able to find those diamonds in the rough to be able to mold into good players. Or in Richard Sherman's case, a potential Hall of Fame player.
More recently, we're seeing the work that Richard's done with Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods at defensive back. Two guys who were drafted in the sixth round have become integral members of the Dallas Cowboys defense.
Brown had a pretty good rookie year in 2016 before hitting a wall in 2017. Woods showed some good moments in 2017 but really showed out in 2018 under Richard's tutelage. While those were two players who were highly thought of relative to their draft position, being under excellent coaching certainly showed in 2018.
They're part of the reason that the Dallas Cowboys felt comfortable not investing a premium pick in a defensive back during the 2019 NFL Draft. Woods' play kept the Cowboys from paying big money to a free agent safety and Brown's play is keeping a talented player like Jourdan Lewis on the bench. Those guys have put in the work, but the coaching that they've received over the last year or more is some of the best in the NFL.
If the Dallas Cowboys do decide to move on from Byron Jones after this season, the Dallas Cowboys front office and coaching staff can feel confident in Richard's ability to develop a cornerback to replace him.
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Several Cowboys observers and analysts, including 105.3 The Fan's Mike Fisher, have opined that Byron Jones could be the odd man out when it comes to who the Dallas Cowboys hand out contract extensions to. He's a good player, and like Dak Prescott on the other side of the ball, Jones is slated to get paid like a top-five player at his position. Much like Dak, it's not that Jones is a top-five player at his position, it's because the market dictates that really good to great players get paid like top-five players.
The Dallas Cowboys should do what they can to bring Byron Jones back. He's a good player and a leader in the locker room. He's someone you can move around to cover some of the bigger receivers in the league like Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints. He's not quite to the level of shutdown corner yet, but in his first full year as a starting cornerback, he showed that he has a lot of ability to be a shutdown corner in the NFL.
Hopefully, 2019 proves to be the year Byron Jones takes away half of the field while taking a whole bag of money.
Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game
The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH
Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.
Devin Smith Has Opportunity to Shine in Michael Gallup’s Absence
In the wake of today's news that Michael Gallup will miss the next 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to trim the meniscus in his left knee. Gallup was having another solid game for the Dallas Cowboys when he suffered the injury. It's an unfortunate setback for Gallup was emerging as a go-to player for Dak Prescott in the passing offense.
With Gallup's absence comes an opportunity for other wide receivers on the depth chart. The player most likely to benefit the most is former second-round pick and first-year Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Devin Smith.
Smith exploded on offense for the Cowboys in week two against the Washington Redskins. He had three receptions on three targets for 74 yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception that was the first score of the game for the Dallas Cowboys. After Gallup went down with the injury, Smith was the immediate beneficiary of snaps, catching his other two passes on the drive after Gallup's injury, including one that picked up the first down.
Devin Smith will take on a larger role with Michael Gallup out. This catch yesterday by Smith was his first TD since 2015. He has battled back from two significant knee injuries.
Devin Smith played 26% of the offensive snaps on Sunday and was dynamic and effective in the passing game. Afte the Gallup injury, any time the offense was in 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) Devin Smith was the next man up.
They used Smith on play-action twice and on an RPO signifying their belief in his ability to make plays in the passing game. The former second-round pick from Ohio State has excellent speed and showed out throughout the preseason and training camp to earn his spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.
In fact, the team felt so good about Smith coming into the season that they were willing to subject both Cedrick Wilson and Jon'vea Johnson to waivers before placing them on the practice squad.
If Michael Gallup does have to sit out for four weeks, then Smith has an excellent opportunity to cement himself within the Dallas Cowboys receiving hierarchy and potentially audition for his next job in 2020, either with the Dallas Cowboys or someone else around the NFL. Smith had likely earned the opportunity to play ahead of Tavon Austin in the offense -- whenever Austin is back -- and how the next two to four weeks go could have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys and his own future.
With the emergence of Michael Gallup toward the end of 2018 and to start the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been much healthier and balanced. It hasn't had to rely on one player to carry the offense and the passing game in particular.
When the Dallas Cowboys have several receiving threats it makes life easier for everyone on offense and much more challenging for opposing defenses. With Devin Smith coming into the lineup, teams are going to have to respect his downfield speed, which could open things up in the short to intermediate areas for the rest of the offense. After his 51 yard touchdown on Sunday, opposing defenses will have to pay attention to Smith.
In week three against at tanking Miami Dolphins squad, Smith may have another big game. In week one, the Miami Dolphins allowed Baltimore Ravens rookie Wide Receiver Marquise Brown to go off for four catches, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. The two touchdowns were on receptions of 47 and 83 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys need Devin Smith to be an effective player in order to keep the balance they've had in their target distribution. Teams will shade coverage toward Amari Cooper with Gallup out and Devin Smith will have to take advantage. Over the last few months, Smith has shown flashes of the ability that once made him a second-round pick. Now he's got a huge opportunity ahead of him and the Dallas Cowboys need him to take advantage of it to have the same level of success they've experienced in the first two weeks of the season.
REPORT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury
Another tough injury coming out of last week's game against Washington; Cowboys starting Safety Xavier Woods is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain injury.
This comes just a day after Dallas lost WR Michael Gallup for 2-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Cowboys FS Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, source said. A blow to the secondary with #Saints, #Packers among upcoming opponents.
The next man up at safety appears to be Darian Thompson, who has been with the Cowboys since midway through the 2018 season. He was re-signed as a free agent last March and is one of the key reasons that Dallas chose not to keep veteran George Iloka at final cuts.
Cowboys S Darian Thompson will make his first start Sunday since joining team in 2018, source said. S Xavier Woods is sidelined with high ankle sprain.
Earlier this morning, it was reported that Dallas is working out free agent safety Josh Jones. He was a 2nd-Round pick of the Packers in 2017 who was released last month after falling down the depth chart and demanding a trade.
Dallas still has Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson on the roster for safety depth. While many fans would love to see Wilson get the start this week, Darian Thompson's game and athleticism are more suited to play the free safety role.
Thompson also has experience, having started 17 games from 2016-2017 with the New York Giants. He was their 3rd-Round pick in 2016.
Thankfully, this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins gives the Cowboys a soft opponent with which to make these adjustments. But missing Xavier Woods is going to hurt; he is a rising star on defense and easily their top player at safety.
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