The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest weakness defensively over the years has been the secondary. In 2019, that was the case once again, in particular, the play of Chidobe Awuzie took a step back.
If you look at his numbers on face value, he had his best season ever with 79 tackles, 14 passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble. However, situationally Awuzie gave up quite a few crucial plays that kept the chains moving for the opposition. So much so that he would eventually get benched at times in favor of Jourdan Lewis, who has proven to be a more reliable and consistent option.
The head-scratching thing about watching Awuzie is that when he actually gets his head around in coverage and plays the ball he doesn’t get beat much. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough which causes him to give up completions because he plays the receiver instead. If there was an award for corners who get beat despite having good pretty good coverage Awuzie might win unanimously. He’s always right there, but he doesn’t consistently apply the basic fundamentals that would make him trustworthy.
This was never more on display than it was in the Cowboys biggest of the season in Week 16 when they took on the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to wrap up the NFC East. After probably his best game of the season in a 44-21 blowout win against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, Awuzie struggled when it mattered the most. Quarterback Carson sought out Awuzie several times when the Eagles needed to keep drives alive, and he did it successfully. This led to Jourdan Lewis, as I mentioned earlier, replacing Awuzie in the Cowboys base 4-3 look.
Now, new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan will have the task of improving the Cowboys secondary. During the days of former DC Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys were very conservative when it came to blitzing, seeing as his scheme was predicated on getting to the quarterback by only rushing four guys. Nolan, going back to his days as the DC for the Atlanta Falcons, blitzed at a significantly higher rate. Getting more pressure on the quarterback could really help Awuzie, that’s if the blitz actually gets home. If it doesn’t, that could lead to more big plays against the Cowboys secondary, because as we all know, you can only cover for so long.
Chidobe Awuzie can be a good corner when he remembers the basics. If he can somehow find a way to be consistent the Cowboys could have an extremely effective cornerback room with himself, Jourdan Lewis and hopefully a re-signed Byron Jones. One thing is for certain when the Cowboys take the field in 2020, one of the biggest microscopes will be on Awuzie.