For a few seasons now, Xavier Woods has been the man at free safety for the Dallas Cowboys. After losing Jeff Heath to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency, the Cowboys signed veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to plug the hole.
In 2019, however, sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson burst onto the scene. After leading the Cowboys and the entire league with three interceptions in the preseason, Wilson was set to challenge Heath for the starting role at strong safety. Unfortunately, an ankle injury put Wilson on the shelf and he never really saw the field last season.
Now, it sets up an interesting battle between Clinton-Dix and Wilson for who will takeover opposite Woods.
Clinton-Dix was one of the better safeties in the NFL during his first five seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Clinton-Dix racked up 351 tackles, 25 pass breakups, and 14 interceptions (made the Pro Bowl in 2016). He was traded to the Washington Redskins for a fourth-round pick in October of 2018 and had 66 tackles in 10 games.
The Chicago Bears signed Clinton-Dix to a one-year 5.5 million dollar deal before last season. Starting all 16 games, he registered 78 tackles and two interceptions (including his first pick-six).
Mike McCarthy coached Clinton-Dix for his first five seasons in Green Bay, so it makes sense that he brought in the veteran at a position of need for Dallas. Clinton-Dix will definitely have the leg up on Wilson for 2020.
Wilson, now healthy and ready to make plays, simply has to continue the momentum he had going in 2019. What makes Wilson such an interesting player, is that he has the skill set to play both safety or nickel corner. At Texas A&M, he played as a nickel corner for two years and produced six of his eight interceptions in college. Also, he had an unbelievable ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage with 21.5 tackles for loss.
Another reason Wilson a chance to beat out Clinton-Dix is his ability to create turnovers. On top of his eight interceptions in college, he also had four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The Cowboys have struggled to take to ball away on defense for years so Wilson could definitely provide a boost in that area.
Even though safety Darian Thompson signed a two-year extension with the Cowboys in March, I feel Clinton-Dix and Wilson will be the top two guys who will battle it out for the starting role at strong safety. Regardless of who comes out on top, the Cowboys are fortunate to have viable options at the position.