I can’t think of any position group on any team that has received as much criticism and blame as the Dallas Cowboys secondary has over the past decade or so.
Trust me, they’ve been easy to blame.
The downfall of Terence Newman in 2011, the failed Alan Ball experiment in 2010, and even the (so far) disappointing career of Morris Claiborne are all examples which detractors will point to in order to prove the Cowboys secondary as inadequate.
The thing is, the last couple of seasons, the Cowboys secondary hasn’t been bad whatsoever.
Last year, they ranked fifth in pass yards against in both per game and overall categories. Though the interceptions weren’t there, you could argue that the unit improved as a whole.
And the signs are pointing towards them being even better in 2016.
One cog in the 2016 defensive backfield machine will be Terrance Mitchell, whom the Cowboys are giving a chance to move from his original cornerback position to safety during OTA’s.
Mitchell failed to make the Cowboys 53-man roster in 2014 after an overall lackluster preseason performance, but found himself back on the team later in 2015.
Though he saw very limited time last season, Mitchell recorded the first interception by a Cowboys cornerback in almost a full calendar year when he finally saw game action week 15 against the New York Jets.
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As Sean Martin profiled here on Inside The Star, Mitchell has displayed the athleticism and versatility to play all over the field. He also plays well in space, and has shown the ability to make open field tackles, something the Cowboys current safeties have had a problem with.
Moving Mitchell to safety makes a ton of sense for the team.
JJ Wilcox has been average at best during his tenure at safety for the Cowboys, His contract is expiring soon, and Byron Jones has emerged as the next free safety.
Though the team drafted Central Michigan safety Kavon Frazier in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, there isn’t a whole lot known about how Frazier will translate to the NFL. The team obviously likes Frazier, and wants to give him a shot, but you don’t want to bet the future on a sixth round rookie just yet.
Barry Church is starting to age, and has performed inconsistently as a whole during his career in Dallas. For now, he is the strong safety, but this could very well change as soon as 2017.
All of this makes Terrance Mitchell’s potential move even more important to the Cowboys future moves at the safety position.
If Terrance Mitchell can play safety consistently, chances for other cornerbacks may open up as well.
This could open the door for Purdue Boilermakers sixth round corner Anthony Brown, who I profiled for the film review series, and enjoyed watching play.
As I talked about in the film review, Brown has some redeeming NFL qualities, and I would like to see him make the 53-man roster.
The issue for Brown is the numbers game of an NFL roster, but if Mitchell moves to safety permanently, Brown will be able to find more reps at corner in practice and may have more chances to prove himself.
There is, of course, the possibility (or probability) of either Morris Claiborne or Brandon Carr not being on the 2017 roster, which would make Brown’s position even more important.
Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com has been skeptical of the move, believing that in the end, Mitchell will return to corner. However there have been other reports of Mitchell looking good at safety when given the chance, so far.
We won’t know the outcome of this move until training camp concludes this summer, but at the moment, Terrance Mitchell has a real chance to help this secondary as a safety and nickel corner immediately.