The Dallas Cowboys added a lot of new faces to the cornerback room this offseason. They added Daryl Worley and Maurice Canady in free agency, then drafted Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson II in the 2020 NFL Draft. With Byron Jones now swimming in a pool full of cash in Miami, the Dallas Cowboys need someone to step up and be their top corner.
Though many might scoff at the idea, Chidobe Awuzie has the athleticism, talent, and experience to slide into that role as the Cowboys number one cornerback.
Heading into a contract year, Chidobe Awuzie has a lot to prove to a lot of people, but I think the prevailing narrative on him might be a bit misleading.
Yes, Chidobe Awuzie has given up a lot of catches over the last two seasons. Yes, at times he was picked on as teams avoided throwing Byron Jones' direction. While those two things are real, it doesn't tell the full story about Chidobe Awuzie's 2019 season.
He wasn't as bad as we think.
In 2019, only 11 players were targeted more than Awuzie's 97 targets. Of those 11 players, only three of them had a better completion percentage allowed than Chido's 59.8% completion percentage allowed. And only three of them allowed fewer touchdowns than Awuzie's three.
Of the 21 players that allowed at least 90 targets, Awuzie was 12th in passer rating allowed. Maybe not great, but not as bad as we think. Only five players had fewer touchdowns than Awuzie's three allowed.
And then there's this stat provided by Pro Football Focus.
Best forced incompletion % among CBs in 2019
1. Carlton Davis – 22%
2. Jaire Alexander/Gareon Conley – 20%
4. Chidobe Awuzie – 19% pic.twitter.com/g7NFwMApfw
— PFF (@PFF) June 12, 2020
Though at times it seemed like Awuzie was having a hard time tracking the football, he still was able to affect pass attempts. Forced incompletion percentage has to do with incompletions that he had a hand in causing.
Chidobe Awuzie often got beat by perfect ball placement and incredible catches by the opposing quarterback-wide receiver tandem. He was more unlucky at times than he was bad. Some of that was a technique that didn't allow Awuzie to do what he does best, and that's playing with his eyes on the ball.
Former Defensive Back Coach Kris Richard encouraged players to play a trail technique that had corners playing the man and not the ball. The downside is that it takes away a player's ability to see the ball coming and limits their ability to make a play on the football.
Chidobe Awuzie has been at his best when he's been able to keep the football in front of him and see the quarterback. When he has his back to the football, he struggles.
There has been some talk about using Awuzie in multiple roles this season like they did his rookie year and like he did at Colorado. Whether he plays safety, in the slot, or on the boundary, it would be wise for the Dallas Cowboys to play Awuzie where he can keep his eyes on the quarterback and the football as much as possible.
Heading into 2020, Awuzie may see a much improved season if only because he won't be targeted as frequently as he was with Byron Jones on the other side of the field. Yes, teams will still throw his way, but the guy on the other side won't be as highly respected as Byron Jones was, which will decrease Awuzie's target rate.
Chidobe Awuzie has all the tools to be a really good corner in the NFL, and in 2020 with a scheme and approach that allows him to play the football more, Awuzie may experience the breakout we've all been waiting to see. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, it's now or never for Awuzie. I believe the Dallas Cowboys will be pleased with the results.