Fixing the secondary was one of the key points in the Dallas Cowboys resurrecting their defense from the abyss it experienced in 2020. After missing out on Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn in the first round, they took Cornerback Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky in the second round and made what many felt was a reach with the selection of Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State in the third round.
After picking up a few offensive pieces in the fourth and fifth rounds, the Cowboys hit the secondary again by taking Israel Mukuamu in the sixth round, a 6’4 defensive back with great length out of South Carolina. A former Cowboys safety, Barry Church, gave the late-round selection some kudos after what he saw from him at the team’s rookie mini-camp last weekend.
“You heard it here first, Mukuamu. Israel Mukuamu,” Church said. “He was the corner opposite of Jaycee Horn down there in South Carolina. And they moved him back to free safety and this is a big kid, 6’4, 212….so he’s a big guy, big kid. They moved him back to free safety – so I was looking a the DB drills. I’m just, you know, biased as a safety. So I’m looking at him and this guy looked fluid. I’m talking about from the breaks, I mean there was no false steps, he wasn’t stepping in a bucket. Everything just seemed to be a positive movement with this guy.”
During his time with the Gamecocks, Mukuamu played in 30 games in three seasons. He totaled 86 tackles and seven interceptions (four in 2019) at cornerback. Also, he started three games at safety in 2020 which gives him excellent position flex, something that’s valued immensely in today’s NFL.
Church would go into more detail about what he saw from Mukuamu in his time wearing blue and silver.
“I mean this guy was catching everything, he looked extremely fluid,” Church said. “When they were doing the kind of mirror the receiver drills as kind of a press coverage technique, he looked extremely comfortable like he was out there before. And that has to come from his corner background that he had at South Carolina, but I’m loving what I’m seeing from this guy. I know it’s early, I know everybody looks great when you just have shorts and a helmet on and everybody looks like they’re the best athlete in the world but from my time in the league I can tell you that guy looks extremely fluid and I wanna see what he can bring to the table for this defense especially in that safety room where it seems to be up for grabs.”
Cole Patterson on Twitter: “Israel Mukuamu is the third DB that the Cowboys have selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/2sjzZDujF3 / Twitter”
Israel Mukuamu is the third DB that the Cowboys have selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/2sjzZDujF3
Mukuamu will be in rotation with Donovan Wilson who had a breakout season in 2020, and Damontae Kazee who was brought in during free agency and played for Dan Quinn during his days with the Atlanta Falcons.
Once he was drafted, Mukuamu mentioned that he felt more comfortable at cornerback, but was willing to play safety as well.
“I feel more comfortable at corner,” Mukuamu said. “But the plan is just to get on the field as quick as I can and if that be corner or safety it doesn’t matter to me I just trying to help the Cowboys win.”
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones quickly made the team’s plans for Mukuamu known, stating that safety would be where the sixth-rounder would earn his stripes.
“I think we’ve got some safety aspirations for him and give our scouts credit. They had a vision. I mean this guy’s long, he’s got great ball skills,” Jones said.
“I mean obviously he has a lot of confidence as a corner if you ask him, but at the same time I think he’s got the ball skills to play in the post, to cover tight ends to do the things we need him to do ad be physical enough to be a safety.”
Michael Gehlken on Twitter: “Emotional moment, as Cowboys draft former South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu in sixth round. (Video via @GamecockFB.) pic.twitter.com/ej3paBbi9h / Twitter”
Emotional moment, as Cowboys draft former South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu in sixth round. (Video via @GamecockFB.) pic.twitter.com/ej3paBbi9h
Mukuamu’s ability to play multiple positions got him to Dallas, and he hasn’t wasted any time making an impression, albeit in a few mini-camp practices. His size, length, and athleticism bring a different dynamic to the Cowboys secondary and he could make an impact early depending on how he develops.