As Cowboys fans and analysts pine for All-Pro safeties, it’s easy to forget that even if they don’t pull off a splash that the team will be fine. Overlooked during the Earl Thomas talk of 2018 and 2019 and then Jamal Adams since, Xavier Woods remains a solid option at the safety position. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal, he still has an opportunity to prove he’s the long-term answer for the Dallas Cowboys at safety.
Xavier Woods is heading into his fourth season in the NFL and has had some good results manning he back end for the Cowboys cover-3 defense. They’ve felt so comfortable with Woods at safety that in each of the last two drafts, they’ve passed on players that had the potential to start and be impactful from day one.
In coverage, Xavier Woods has been one of the better safeties in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus, Woods was 11th in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties that played at least 343 coverage snaps. He was 12th in the NFL in yards per snap and 22nd in snaps per reception.
As a tackler, there were times he struggled as Woods was 39th in the NFL in tackling efficiency per Pro Football Focus. Tackling efficiency simply measures the number of tackles attempted per miss. Woods’ tackling efficiency of 7.4 was just a tick behind Tyrann Mathieu and better than Earl Thomas, Tre Boston, and Juan Thornhill, three popular names at safety over the last few years.
Per Pro Football Focus grading system, Xavier Woods was the 22nd best safety out of 63 players that played at least 563 snaps on the season. He may not be the All-Pro player that fans have been dreaming of, but Xavier Woods is a solid safety who can make plays in the secondary.
His two interceptions were tied for the team lead in picks in 2019 and will have a chance to repeat that feat again in 2020. Two interceptions isn’t a lot but he’s shown the range and coverage ability to be a really good safety in the NFL.
With a greater attempt made to disguise coverages to keep offenses off-balance, Woods will surprise some quarterbacks in the passing game. He’s a very smart player in coverage and has good instincts. His range and playmaking ability will be served well in an aggressive, takeaway focused defense. While simplicity can be a good thing at times, it became played out in Dallas. A fresh approach that will look to exploit weaknesses and game opponents will help this secondary create more turnovers, Xavier Woods in particular.
With more blitzes comes more pressure. More pressure leads to rushed throws. Rushed or hurried throws lead to mistakes. And that is where Xavier Woods can capitalize.
Although many in Cowboys Nation are clamoring for the Cowboys to make a significant splash at the safety position, it just seems that the Cowboys are content with seeing where Xavier Woods can go from here. Xavier Woods has an opportunity to build on a solid 2019 season and potentially earn a long-term contract form the Dallas Cowboys if things go well in Mike Nolan’s defense.
There have been high hopes for Woods since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s shown flashes of good to great safety play. Can 2020 be the year he puts all together and takes a step into stardom? The Dallas Cowboys certainly think so.