Given the emergence of Byron Jones as an All Pro level cornerback, Chidobe Awuzie saw an increase in targets his way during the 2018 season. Still, Awuzie came on strong late in the season and looked to be playing up to his preseason hype by the time the postseason came around.
Now Awuzie enters his third NFL season, looking to establish himself as an equal and potential replacement to Jones as the Cowboys CB1. And with Jones out thus far in camp, Awuzie has been turning some heads.
Awuzie’s biggest issue in 2018 really didn’t have anything to do with his coverage abilities. More often than not he was step for step with receivers, sticking to them in man coverage and making it difficult on them to find space. The problems came more at the catch point, where Awuzie struggled to get his hands on the ball and gave up far too many contested catches.
So far in training camp, Chidobe Awuzie has shown improvement in this area on multiple reps. On the play clipped above, we see Awuzie defending Michael Gallup on a fade route. Awuzie stays right on his back hip the whole time, and gets in Gallup’s line of sight with the ball in the air.
Traditionally, you’d think that Awuzie would want to get his head around to deflect the pass, but Kris Richard actually teaches his corners to keep their eyes on the receiver. So by design, Awuzie is perfect on this rep.
On this play, Awuzie’s deflection gives safety Xavier Woods a chance to create a turnover. We see him play the tight end’s route perfectly, displaying excellent closing speed and quick hands to bat the ball away in the air. Just as he always has, Awuzie stays in excellent position in man coverage, but he is now working to make plays on the ball he never really was able to in the past.
Taking this next step as a cover corner will turn Awuzie from a good, likely underrated around the leauge, cornerback into a potential Pro Bowl caliber player opposite Byron Jones.
This is textbook coverage from Chidobe here, and should get all Cowboys fans excited about what his future holds in 2019.