From Earl Thomas to Eric Berry to the 2019 NFL Draft, the safety position may have been the most-talked-about spot on the roster for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. It should come as no small comfort then that third-year stud Xavier Woods is arguably the most-talked-about player so far at the Cowboys' training camp.
The idea of Woods having a breakout season in 2019 is not a new thought. However, this first week of camp has only served to confirm and accelerate the projections.
— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) August 2, 2019
If I had to pick five Cowboys players who are having the most badass camps so far, they’d be:
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 4, 2019
This is just a sampling of the praising remarks that we've seen about Woods' performances so far in the Oxnard practices.
The Cowboys disappointed many fans when they didn't sign a big name like Berry or Thomas last spring. Then when Dallas also didn't draft a safety until the 6th round of the 2019 draft, there was an uproar at the thought of going into this year without a talent upgrade.
But if Jerry Jones' comments yesterday are any indication, the Cowboys are expecting that upgrade to come organically.
Jerry Jones on Xavier Woods: "I think he's going to be one of the best safeties. When we were talking safeties (before the) draft … I'd run into him and he said, 'Why are you so worried about safety? Got me back there. Why is everybody worried about a safety? I can do it.'"
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 5, 2019
While Xavier was only a 6th-round pick in 2017 himself, his play-making spark has already been seen over the last two years. Now in his third professional season, and second with Defensive Backs guru Kris Richard as a coach, Woods' rise to stardom could take a dramatic leap.
We've already seen that Xavier can lay some big hits and generate turnovers. But the hope for 2019 is that his game now has polish, helping him to avoid penalties and add some consistent shutdown coverage to the big-play potential.
Improved fundamentals will not only help Woods take his career to the next level, but it also help solidify the defensive backfield for whoever his fellow start winds up being.
Veterans Jeff Heath and George Iloka are both experienced but need to be playing next to a true star to mitigate their weaknesses. Based on how they handled the offseason business at safety, the Cowboys seem to be betting on Xavier to provide that presence.
We already expect Jaylon Smith to be a first-time Pro Bowler in 2019. It may be a few more months before we know if we can add Xavier Woods to that discussion.
But if this first week of training camp is any indication, it should be worth the wait.