When you draft a guy in the early rounds the key thing you want to see from year to year is progression. After missing most of the training camp during his rookie season in 2017 with hamstring and ankle injuries, Chidobe Awuzie showed his potential as an important link in the secondary chain. He would see action in 10 games logging 6 starts as he finished with 25 tackles, 7 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and an interception.
Last season, Awuzie improved by leaps and bounds in multiple ways. He played in 15 games with 14 starts and saw his production dramatically increase. His tackles jumped up to 71 and his passes defended went to 11. What was noticeable when you watch the film was the improvement in his technique, anticipation and tackling in the open field. 80.2% of his tackles were solo, meaning he did a great job in open space bringing down running backs and receivers.
This brought about high expectations going into 2019 for the third-year pro, and he hasn’t disappointed so far, due in large part to his battles with Wide Receiver Michael Gallup in training camp.
Chidobe Awuzie vs. Michael Gallup https://t.co/sKGMkvEtfc
Jaylon Smith blitz, Chidobe Awuzie pass breakup https://t.co/Uxq6LaI0LM
In the two videos above he does a good job of defending Gallup even with his back turned. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about anticipation which is an extremely valuable tool for a cornerback. At times all defensive backs get beat rather if it’s off of the line of scrimmage or a double move in open space so having the skills to recover are definitely vital.
The video below just might be my favorite play by Awuzie during training camp. He shows off his awareness skills as he recognizes the route by Jason Witten and makes a great play on the ball. Xavier Woods will get credit for the interception but it was made possible by the savvy of Awuzie.
Another Xavier Woods interception. His third of training camp https://t.co/amdFqGqdlo
This past Saturday the Cowboys kicked off the 2019 preseason at Levi’s Stadium against the 49ers. Awuzie didn’t see a lot of action, understandably, but he made his few reps count.
This was a really nice play by #Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie. He’s playing with so much more confidence. https://t.co/5eaQYiynDv
I’m looking forward to seeing Chidobe Awuzie make the leap this season. https://t.co/NoK3hKeNw8
The first video above shows Awuzie’s great recognition of the play drawn up by the 49ers. He sees the slot receiver running an out route and makes a great open-field tackle for a one-yard loss. On the very next play, he keeps good outside leverage and makes an excellent play on the ball on third down. Very strong series for the former Colorado Buffalo.
All-Pro Cornerback Byron Jones will be out probably the entire preseason as he nurses a hip injury that he had surgery on in March. He’s expected to be ready by the time the Cowboys open the 2019 season at home against the New York Giants. His contract will be up after this season and he’ll have the chance to test the free-agent market. If Jones does decide to go elsewhere, the continued growth of Awuzie should make everyone in the building confident that he can step up and be the team’s number one corner if this particular scenario comes about. I expect a big 2019 from Chido.