On a national level, it may be a while until the Dallas Cowboys young secondary gets the credit it deserves. This relatively unknown unit was a consistent bright spot through a rough 2017 season, seeing rookie Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis contribute right away. Now, with Awuzie being joined by Byron Jones as the projected outside starters for Dallas, the pair of lengthy cornerbacks in Kris Richard’s defense have earned honors from Pro Football Focus.
Chidobe Awuzie allowed the fewest yards per reception last season!
In grading yards allowed per reception last season, Awuzie led the league at just seven yards a catch. When on the field, the rookie out of Colorado did everything to make Cowboys Nation forget about his nagging early-season injuries.
If Awuzie is truly able to put his six missed game from 2017 behind him and take another step forward, the sky is the limit for the CB in defending this prestigious title. Rarely giving his opposing receiver a clean release at the line, Awuzie plays with ideal physicality and ball skills. This is a second-year player with all of the traits to be a star for years to come in Dallas.
Byron Jones is one the top eight slot cornerbacks heading into the 2018 season! #CowboysNation https://t.co/w9skqeqsFN
Where things get significantly more interesting in PFF’s analysis is with their grade for Byron Jones. The 2018 season will be the first since Jones’ rookie year that he officially plays as a cornerback full time. This didn’t stop PFF from using his snaps as a cover CB from 2017 to grade him as one of their top slot corners.
Where Byron Jones has earned this prestige is in his work covering opposing tight ends. Exactly how much he’ll be doing this moving forward remains to be seen. If purely playing to his strengths, the Cowboys could find themselves in a log jam at the inside CB position.
Second-year Cornerback Jourdan Lewis should have the fast track to start inside after doing so brilliantly at Michigan. Playing with the same technique on the outside for the Cowboys in 2017, Lewis shouldn’t be coming off the field much, but has seen 2016 draft pick Anthony Brown cut into his opportunities.
Struggling through much of his second season, Brown has his work cut out for him to not become an afterthought for this secondary. Even without factoring him into the equation, a pairing of Awuzie and Jones on the outside is as exciting as it gets. Not only are the Cowboys prepared to play to both defenders strengths in locking down passing games for years to come, but the depth elsewhere on the roster will allow match ups to be dictated all over the field.
The Cowboys best kept secret may very well still be Kris Richard, who inherits two league-leading starters right off the bat for a Dallas team also featuring Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier at safety along with Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and Leighton Vander Esch as linebacker.