Byron Jones is a stud.
For some reason, this is a somewhat controversial statement among Cowboys fans. I've been banging the pro Byron Jones drum since his rookie year, but Jones has taken his game to a whole new level over the past season and a half.
The Cowboys number one cornerback is having yet another dominant season on the outside, blanketing some of the best wide receivers in all of football weekly.
By the numbers he's clearly been one of the league's elite.
Per PlayerProfiler.com, Byron Jones is first in burn rate, fifth in coverage rating, 4th in catch rate allowed, and 4th in yards per target allowed. Throwing at Jones rarely works out well for opposing offenses, and they've learned to look to attack other defenders. Jones is allowing about 4.4 targets per game (31 overall), while Chidobe Awuzie is allowing 6.1 targets per game (43 overall).
Put simply – Byron Jones is an elite coverage cornerback, and offenses know it.
Despite all of these numbers which point towards Jones' ability, his skills are still a hot topic of debate amongst Cowboys fans. The biggest reason, of course, is the lack of takeaways.
To me, takeaways are very often a product of luck. A tipped balls here, an overthrow there – that's where most of turnovers occur. Jones is almost always in advantageous coverage position, and does make plays on the ball. Often, though, they are pass breakups rather than interceptions.
Lack of takeaways has plagued the entirety of the Cowboys defense, not just Jones. This points to a difference in scheme and philosophy from some other defenses as well. Whereas some defensive coordinators coach their teams to play more aggressively, taking chances on the ball and attempting to make those big plays, Rod Marinelli likes to utilize more of a “bend don't break” approach.
This approach isn't better or worse than others, it's just different and creates different outcomes on Sunday. Outcomes, by the way, which have turned this Cowboys defense into a rather solid unit.
Even without those “splashy” type of plays in coverage, Byron Jones is far and away the best cornerback on the Cowboys roster. Jourdan Lewis has done a lot this year to make a case that he's number two to Jones, but Byron remains atop the rankings.
Byron Jones' athleticism, measurables, and incredible range and coverage ability will all work to make him a hot commodity when he becomes a free agent this offseason. Jones is going to get paid, and I know I'd like to see him get that contract in Dallas.
He has certainly earned it.