The Dallas Cowboys threw a lot of resources at the cornerback position 2021. By the end of preseason, various factors have established a loose depth chart for Week One. But while certain players may start on Thursday against Tampa Bay, we could see many changes to the lineup over the course of the year.
Trevon Diggs is the only CB on the roster that should retain a starting as long as he's healthy. He was already flashing CB1 potential as a rookie and has been consistently praised this summer for developing his craft.
Beyond Diggs is a mix of players who could occupy various spots on the depth chart at any point this season. Health will be one contributing factor but performance, especially from two rookies, could cause shifts over the next four months.
Right now we expect Cowboys holdovers Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis to be the next two corners after Diggs. Brown is entering his sixth season with the club and Lewis his fifth; both earned second contracts from the team and will be leaned on early.
Another veteran, Maurice Canady, should make his regular-season debut for Dallas this week and could be a significant factor. While many wondered if he'd even return after opting-out in 2020, Canady had a strong camp and could challenge Brown and Lewis for playing time quickly.
Second-round pick Kelvin Joseph will start the season on injured reserve after hurting his groin in the preseason finale. The current rules allow for him to return after a minimum of three games, so the rookie could be back soon and will be get opportunities once healthy.
Another rookie, 3rd-round pick Nahshon Wright, is also a piece to this puzzle. He was generating considerable hype early in camp but got quieter in preseason. Nevertheless, Wright is a promising young talent and someone the Cowboys want to evaluate this year for taking on greater future responsibility.
The future is a key factor in how Dallas handles the present. Anthony Brown is a likely salary cap casualty in 2022 and Jourdan Lewis is also a candidate. Maurice Canady will be an unrestricted free agent next year.
With three premium picks spent on Diggs, Joseph, and Wright, the Cowboys would be thrilled to see those three form the nucleus of the CB position in 2022 and for the next few seasons. But they can't count on that without proof, and getting that proof means playing time for the rookies.
If Joseph and Wright deliver when called upon, Dallas will have plenty of incentive to keep them on the field. That could be bad news for the veterans as the season goes along.
Whatever you see this week as a depth chart at cornerback is probably just a temporary or current arrangement. Other than Trevon Diggs, all five of these CBs will likely see some significant snaps throughout 2021. Dallas will want their best guys on the field, but they will have to give everyone opportunities to prove who the best really are.