The Dallas Cowboys have cycled through a lot of defensive backs the last few years, and mostly due to players not working out as hoped. The crop of cornerbacks and safeties coming to 2021 training camp is split down the middle between new and returning players. What might a current depth chart look like given all the changes?
We've reached this point for a variety of reasons. Many would still like to see Byron Jones here as a fixture at starting CB, but Dallas didn't want to pay his heavy free agent price in 2020 and let him walk. The other primary starter since 2017, Chidobe Awuzie, left this past offseason as Dallas didn't value him enough to compete with the open market.
Dallas has given second contracts to reliably unremarkable players like Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. You need guys like this to fill a depth chart but neither has shown they can help push a defense to championship level.
So with many new options in the mix for 2021, let's project a depth chart. If you've been following our series, you should know by now that players on the top lines are who I expect to make the roster and players on secondary lines are other participants in camp.
- CB1: Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph
- CB2: Jourdan Lewis, Nahshon Wright
- CB3: Anthony Brown, Reggie Robinson
- CB/ST: C.J. Goodwin
- S1: Damontae Kazee, Israel Mukuamu
- Tyler Coyle, Steven Parker
- S2: Donovan Wilson, Jayron Kearse
While keeping 11 total defensive backs is a lot, I don't really view C.J. Goodwin as a true member of the defense at this point. He is technically listed as a CB but at this point he's here for all the incredible work he does on special teams. His roster spot will likely come at the expense of a third QB or some other part of the team.
Trevon Diggs is your incumbent CB1 and rightfully so after a strong rookie season. Beyond him it gets murkier between Lewis, Brown, and the new players from the 2021 draft. Given he just got a new contract, though, Jourdan's place on the roster is at least fairly certain for this year.
Anthony Brown's position isn't quite as secure. Dallas can clear some cap space by releasing the veteran but would also lose their most well-established corner. Brown isn't a stud but he provides consistent stability as a CB3 or top reserve; a worthwhile asset for any team looking to compete.
Rookies Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright are locks for the roster but playing time will depend on how they compete with Lewis and Brown. We also have second-year prospect Reggie Robinson returning to his college position of CB after an arguably wasted rookie season at safety.
That top six may be hard to crack, but veterans Maurice Canady and Deante Burton are going to give it their all. Canady has the best shot; a free agent from 2020 who was expected to push for a big role but opted-out under the COVID-19 policy. If anyone's going to make Brown expendable or push Robinson to the practice squad, it's him.
As for the safeties, Damontae Kazee and Donovan Wilson are safe bets as your 2021 starters. Their playing styles compliment each other well in the more tradition free and strong safety roles, plus Kazee's history with Dan Quinn works in his favor.
Assuming that 6th-Round rookie Israel Mukuamu makes the team may be a leap but it's not like he has much competition. Jayron Kearse is here as a veteran backup and special teamer and should make the team unless there's a surprising surge from a prospect like Tyler Coyle or Steven Parker.
Darian Thompson is still hanging around but I doubt for much longer. With only $100k in guaranteed money left on his deal, he's an easy cut as long as some of the fresh faces prove their worth.