As Byron Jones departed in free agency for the Miami Dolphins, and the richest cornerback contract in the NFL, a collective worry arose in the hearts and minds of Cowboys fans and analysts alike. Immediately, we began to pour over free-agent cornerback lists, hoping the Dallas Cowboys would make a splash to replace their Pro Bowl cornerback.
Instead, they opted for a couple of low cost moves by retaining Anthony Brown and C.J. Goodwin, and signing Maurice Canady in free agency. As things stand on March 27, the Cowboys cornerback depth chart looks like this:
- Chidobe Awuzie
- Anthony Brown
- Jourdan Lewis
- Maurice Canady
- C.J. Goodwin
As you take a gander at who is slated to play cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, it’s not very inspiring.
They’ve received solid performances from Awuzie, Brown, and Lewis at different times during their careers, but inconsistency is a theme that could describe each throughout their years in the NFL. Canady has generally been a part-time player, but he’s been productive when given an opportunity. And C.J. Goodwin is primarily a special teams player.
With the cornerback room the way it looks now, the assumption is the Dallas Cowboys will take a run at a cornerback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The most popular names being Florida’s C.J. Henderson and LSU’s Kristian Fulton. If mock drafts are any indication, it’s looking like Henderson may be gone by the time the Cowboys come on the clock at number 17 overall. They would then have to settle for the third-best cornerback in the draft in Fulton, potentially reach on a player in the first, or wait till the second round to select their cornerback.
Awuzie and Lewis are scheduled to be free agents in 2021, so it’s all but assured that the Dallas Cowboys will need to do something in the draft this year, possibly selecting two corners, to help prepare for the potential losses next offseason.
Regardless of what they do in the draft, Byron Jones believes this cornerback group is going to be able to hold their own in the 2020 season.
Byron Jones: “One thing that the Dallas Cowboys do a really good job at is drafting good young players, and they have a whole bunch of good corners on that team – no question about that – and those guys will be just fine without me.”
Jones is right in that the Cowboys have done a pretty good job at drafting cornerbacks in recent years. Though they played Byron Jones out of position for the first three years of his career, he turned out to be an excellent cornerback. Chidobe Awuzie has struggled to make plays on the ball at times, but he’s played a lot of football for the Cowboys, but has generally been in the right place. Perhaps a new coaching staff can help Awuzie’s game go to another level. Jourdan Lewis has been one of the better playmakers on the team when given an opportunity. Anthony Brown has been solid and at times over the years has been one of their better cover players.
This offseason will create an interesting dynamic at the cornerback position. If they don’t draft a corner in the first couple of rounds, they’ll likely have an open competition to see what their best combination of corners will be.
Chidobe Awuzie is primarily an outside player and has the most starting experience of the bunch so should be a shoo-in to continue to start on the left side of the defense. That leaves Lewis, Brown, and Canady for two more spots when the Cowboys are in nickel, which NFL teams are in around 70% of the time.
While the assumption exists that the Cowboys will draft a corner in the first couple of rounds in the NFL Draft, I don’t think we should sleep on the players they have in the locker room currently. A more blitz-heavy and aggressive defense from Mike Nolan could make this group better if the front seven is forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball under duress more frequently.
This is one of the more fascinating position groups to watch over the spring and summer to see how it evolves and plays itself out before the NFL season opens in September (hopefully). Seeing if this new coaching staff can take these players to another level will be one of the more important story lines for 2020. The front seven looks ready to contend. The secondary still has some questions to answer.
Byron Jones has no doubt that the cornerbacks on the Dallas Cowboys roster will be able to put those questions to rest. A lot of what happens in 2020, will depend on it.