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Cowboys Defensive Back Questions Still Need Answers

John Williams

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Byron Jones
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys defense took a step forward in 2017, and in the process they answered several questions. They found a “war daddy” in DeMarcus Lawrence, something that’s been missing since DeMarcus Ware left for the Denver Broncos. Lawrence finished tied for second with Calais Campbell in sacks with 14.5, and made the NFL All-Pro Second Team.

We got to see Jaylon Smith answer questions about his health all season long. Smith appears to be trending in the right direction, both in his health and his performance on the field.

The plan to rebuild the secondary seems to be on the right track as they’ve found a couple of aggressive corners in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. They have the look of a dynamic duo that will be impact players on this team for a long, long time.

Kavon Frazier has been a revelation. The thumper at the safety position is something that's been missing for the Dallas Cowboys since Roy Williams.

However, questions still remain about a defense that carried this team at times, and looked like the Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin defenses of yesteryear at other times.

To me the biggest questions in the secondary revolve around Byron Jones and Xavier Woods.

Cowboys en Español: Proyectando el Roster de 53 Jugadores 2

Dallas Cowboys S Byron Jones (James D. Smith via AP)

Where do Byron Jones and Xavier Woods Fit?

Byron Jones has been a popular whipping boy for Cowboys Nation. Some of that has been accurate, but he's not as bad as social media would have you believe.

He’s been sticky in coverage, especially against tight ends, throughout his career, but in 2017 it seemed like he was shying away from tackling a bit too much. He still has that tremendous athleticism and coverage ability that warranted a first-round pick, but the question remains: What is his best position?

After playing where needed his rookie season, the Cowboys coaching staff moved him to safety for the last couple of years with mixed results.

As stated, he’s been pretty good in coverage and made some incredible plays on the ball, even if he’s lacking the interception numbers. The problem comes, in my opinion, when he’s asked to make tackles in space, which is an important aspect of being a safety.

Many have begun to wonder if Dallas would be best served moving Jones back to corner.

As a cornerback, Jones would be able to use his athleticism and coverage skills against the bigger wide receivers in the league, but not be asked to make as many tackles in the middle of the field against running backs and tight ends.

They can still bring him in against some of the better tight ends in the league. We already know the Cowboys will face Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins, and Evan Engram of the New York Giants for a total of six games in 2018.

Dallas will also face the likes of Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Alshon Jeffrey and Marvin Jones, who are bigger more athletic wide receivers who could require a man of Byron's skill.

It will be interesting to see what they do with Byron this offseason.

Where Will Dallas Cowboys Search For "Fresh Ideas" Begin? 3

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB/S Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The same question applies to Xavier Woods, but not because he struggled. He was actually quite good as the slot corner throughout much of his rookie season.

Woods primarily played safety in his time at Louisiana Tech, and showed an ability to be the deep middle safety. Because of injuries to the cornerback group, Woods lined up as the slot corner for a lot of his snaps.

He played well there for Dallas, leaving many to wonder if he hasn’t earned the role of third cornerback. That may be a good fit, but it’s not typical to see a guy who was primarily a safety in college become a corner in the NFL.

I'd rather see him as a full-time safety.

With Woods at safety, Dallas can stay in their base defense when teams go to three wide receiver formations, especially on early downs or in situations where a run is just as likely. He can drop down from the safety spot to play in the slot, if -- and it's a big if -- you trust your single-high safety.

Woods' ability to cover in the slot allows you to stay competitive against the run, which was a struggle for Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

We’ve seen how the yo-yo game between positions can affect a player's technique and mentality. Chaz Green wasn’t the same player in 2017 when asked to prepare as both a guard and a tackle, as opposed to 2016 when he strictly played tackle.

In my opinion, it would be to the Dallas Cowboys interest to move Byron Jones back to cornerback full-time, and move Woods to safety.

When you decide to go to your nickel package, Chidobe Awuzie and Jones play the outside with Jourdan Lewis moving to the middle. Or you bring Jones in to cover the tight end, leave Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, and drop Woods into the slot and play cover 1.

What do you think?

Where do Byron Jones and Xavier Woods fit best on this team?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Albert Smith

    January 13, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    I agree with this because I’ve been saying for the past couple of years that BJ should be moved back to corner and a specialist in situations that call for it.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 14, 2018 at 3:28 am

      While I’m a huge fan of the coaching staff, I think they get a little to creative with their players and love the idea of position flexibility a bit too much.

    • EverybodyTalks

      January 15, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      I agree. You look at Byron and he has the speed (22.1 mph clocked), 6’1″ and a little over 200lbs. He played CB in college. He’s got jumps – this is way to easy. Make him a cornerback and draft a Safety..smh!

      • John Williams

        John Williams

        January 21, 2018 at 5:26 am

        Yeah man. He has some good matchup ability in man coverage. Hopefully the DC’s will see the need and make it happen.

  2. MLV

    January 14, 2018 at 5:04 am

    The best secondary would be Awuzie,Lewis CB, Jones FS, Frazier SS, Woods nickel!

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 14, 2018 at 11:48 am

      I don’t mind it, because I like Jones’ ability to cover deep, but his best ability has been in man against big athletic pass catchers. I’d rather see them put him where he can excel more frequently.

      • EverybodyTalks

        January 15, 2018 at 6:51 pm

        Agreed. Plus, as a 1st rounder, we can extend him for a 5th year. We did it for Mo and Byron has more upside.

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          January 21, 2018 at 5:27 am

          No doubt. If he shows out at CB this year, I wouldn’t hesitate. He has some ability at S, but could be much better given his size on the outside. They’re going to have their hands full with the NFC South WRs next year.

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          January 30, 2018 at 4:33 am

          I think this will be an important season for Byron. I think he’s yet to fully hit his stride.

  3. Travis Diggs

    January 14, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Where these two fit really depends on what they do with Orlando Scandrick and Marquez White in the off season. I believe White should of made the roster early on over Carroll, he’s a big physical corner who played well in preseason. Scandrick being injured showed us what the future looks like without him, he might get cut or they keep him, who knows. The better two safeties out of the four on the roster is Byron Jones and Xavier Woods so it really depends on roster moves they make this spring

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 14, 2018 at 11:45 am

      I think Scandrick is gone. Age and injury have him out the door. White, will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot this offseason. Hard to go into a season like 2017 with approximately 40% of your DB depth chart made up of rookies.

  4. Nick Green

    January 14, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Ive been arguing this all season.
    Heath is more of deep middle (free) than box safety (strong) & Frazier was really good in box late in season… Rotate Woods in both spots with those 2. He looked ok as a slot CB, but I remember Crowder from Redskins & Shepherd from Giants running free thru the secondary when Woods was slot CB. We probably lose that Wash game if Crowder wasn’t fumbling all game.
    BJ is a CB, he moves like one & is best in man converage because he looks lost in zone at times (Jared Cook ring a bell)… Put him & Chido outside with their size & athleticism & put Lewis in the slot. Let AB be primary backup in slot & See if White has improved enough to be 5th CB

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 14, 2018 at 11:46 am

      Shepard and Crowder are two of the better slots in the league. This is why I want to see Woods moved to safety and Jones to Corner. Puts them at their best spots when the team goes to nickel.

  5. Letstalk Aboutit

    January 14, 2018 at 9:54 am

    While Jones hasn’t been bad he definitely need to get better. All of this talk about moving Jones to corner but 1 thing seems to be missing, the name of Scandrick. If we have Jones, Awuzie and Lewis all playing a starting or highly important role, where does that leave Orlando Scandrick. I know I have heard the rumors, however he isn’t gone yet and we Cowboys fans and the majority of the media don’t even mention him. For a player who has given his heart and soul for this team and made some huge plays for us I just felt like he deserved to be mentioned.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 14, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Scandrick is likely gone, mo. His age and injuries make him unreliable at this point. Even when on the field, he was struggling a bit. Scandrick has been great for this team, but it’s time to move on.

      • Letstalk Aboutit

        January 14, 2018 at 12:06 pm

        In no way do I disagree with you, I just want to give recognition to a man who has done a great job for the Cowboys organization. People act like they can’t even acknowledge him and what he has meant to us as Cowboys fans. I for 1 just wanted to mention him as a way of saying thank you. Orlando Scandrick deserves that.

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          January 21, 2018 at 5:29 am

          Absolutely. Scan has been a warrior and has far exceeded the fifth round draft choice he was. He’s a Cowboy through and through in the same way that DeMarcus Ware is. His ability to lock down the slot and then push into the starting lineup was awesome. Made moving on from Carr and Claiborne that much easier.

  6. Jason Wagner

    January 15, 2018 at 9:17 am

    I think you did a great job breaking this down and I agree with your conclusions, however this would require drafting another Safety in the top 2-3 picks….which we need to do regardless.

    • EverybodyTalks

      January 15, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      True. Derwin James and Ronnie Harrison in.the 1st. Marcus Allen and Jordan Whitehead in the 2nd. DeShon Elliot and Armani Watts in the 3rd. Just some of the ones that we would welcome into the backfield.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 21, 2018 at 5:30 am

      Since we need to draft a safety, there are going to be options in the first three rounds to make it happen. Even if we don’t draft a safety, I’d be cool rolling with Woods, Heath, Frazier and a veteran option and putting Jones at CB. Put players in the best position to succeed.

  7. Terry Jones

    January 15, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Exactly why I been saying we don’t need to draft a corner. Jones and awuzie outside Lewis in the slot. Woods in the nickle with Frazier back there thumping

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      January 21, 2018 at 5:31 am

      Bring it on. I continue to get a sense that a veteran splash could occur if Earl Thomas somehow becomes available.

  8. Wayne A Caddell Jr

    January 19, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    John Williams,
    In today’s NFL, you have to have 3 good CBs. Which is why I like the Dallas Cowboys offensive scheme. It’s still old school smash mouth.
    And I am not one of those who believe Jason Garrett is the problem. If people would examine both Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, Landry didn’t even have a .500 winning percentage in 5 years of being HC, and Jimmy Johnson had an Ace in the hole (Herschel Walker) and a gullible team (Minnesota), and how he played it so Dallas could aquire draft picks. Because Minnesota didn’t believe Dallas would cut the players they received in the trade or they would not have made the trade. So JJ played poker, not revealing his true intentions. Jimmy Johnson got extremely lucky. Even after the trade, it took him 3 more years just to make a wildcard game (Detroit, which they lost, Detroit played Washington but lost, Washington goes to the Super Bowl and beats the Buffalo Bills).
    If people really want to know what’s happening here, it’s just like shortly after Jimmy Johnson traded Walker. Dallas went 1-15 in 89, 7-9 in 90, 11-5 in 91. And Jimmy Johnson didn’t have a salary cap in his way either. He could sign and fire every day he wanted without salary cap penalties. When Garrett took over, the offensive line was old, slow and injured prone. He can only do so much in a single draft but he’s done an excellent job because Jerry Jones has been held at bay. After getting Dallas competitive again, DeMarco Murray stabs Dallas in the back after Dallas stuck by him in spite of being injured and not able to play much during his first few years after being drafted. He signs with Philadelphia, Dallas could not match it because of the salary cap that Jerry Jones has screwed up for over a decade. I’ll give you that it’s not been very pretty, but Jason Garrett is not the problem in Dallas. Dallas has to build through the draft because they’re still in Salary Cap Hell. They couldn’t sign a good free agent if they wanted to because they don’t have the cap space to do so. What Garrett and the staff has done a very good job considering what they have to work with. Dallas had to take a step back because alot of experience wasn’t resigned. Again because they couldn’t afford to. And until more salary gets written off the books, hopefully in the next 3 years, then Dallas can be spenders again. Jerry Jones should be out of the picture at this time to be able to screw up anything else. But these rookies showed good fight, potential and you could just tell they hate to lose. I see Doomsday on the rise very soon.

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Dallas Cowboys

3 Reasons Not to Hate Kellen Moore Becoming Offensive Coordinator

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Coaching: Wade Wilson, Joe Baker Out; Who's Will Follow?

Days after firing Scott Linehan, the Dallas Cowboys continue their search for their next offensive coordinator. It all points toward the team making an in-house promotion, with QB coach Kellen Moore taking his mentor's place. According to Adam Schefter from ESPN, the former Boise State passer is the leading candidate for the offensive coordinator vacancy in Dallas.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Former NFL QB Jon Kitna, now offensive coordinator for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football, is expected to become the Cowboys' QB coach, per a league source. Dallas' current QB coach, Kellen Moore, is a leading candidate to become Cowboys' OC, per sources.

The main reason to believe this, is the fact that Jon Kitna is expected to be hired as the team's QB Coach. This could mean plenty of things for Kellen Moore, but it's more than fair to believe he'll get the promotion.

Naturally, a huge amount of fans will be infuriated if Kellen Moore does get the coaching gig. His time as a player in the league wasn't any good. He's been part of Scott Linehan's coaching tree and that should mean Moore isn't capable of being an offensive coordinator, right?

Well, not so fast. Here are three reasons why you shouldn't hate Kellen Moore's candidacy for offensive coordinator.

1. Bad Player Doesn't Mean Bad Coach

First of all, let's forget about the idea than a player's performance is any indication of what he can be as a coach. It has absolutely no correlation. A bad player can turn into a pretty good coach and a good player can be terrible at coaching.

When we're talking about Kellen Moore, we're talking about a pretty smart kid. Ever since he was coming out of Boise State, scouts and analysts talked about his excellent football IQ. Moore clearly didn't last in the league because of his talent. What helped him stick around was his intelligence and knowledge. Teams that had him as a backup signal caller basically had a second QB coach on the locker room.

I actually found it funny how the perception around Moore has changed. When he was a backup on the roster, we talked about how he was very smart and could become a great coach someday but he didn't have it as a player. Now that he is a coach, we're talking about how he can't coach because he didn't play well. How is that logical?

2. Working With Linehan Doesn't Mean He’s Linehan 2.0

Now, another big concern is the fact that he worked many years with recently fired Scott Linehan. This doesn't mean Kellen Moore has the exact same offensive philosophy than his mentor. Sure, he worked with Linehan's offense because it was his job. We don't actually know what he'd bring to the table when he's in charge of the offense. Not to mention, Linehan wasn't always awful. There's a reason why for some years his offense was pretty productive. Moore can take the positive lessons from Scott and throw in a little of his own to make the Cowboys' offense efficient.

Dallas could move the chains last season. It was in specific areas like the red zone, long down situations that the team struggled. Kellen Moore could very well have what it takes to change that. At the end of the day, we won't know until we actually see what Moore's philosophy looks like.

3. Jason Garrett Will Take Over the Offense

For some years, Linehan was in complete control of the offense. This time around, it feels like it will be Jason Garrett's unit. This might be the most important aspect of this whole thing. This is Garrett's plan. This could very well be a great staff working together. Moore can be eased into his job with Jason Garrett calling the plays on the sideline at the start of the season.

With TE Coach Doug Nussmeier's help, this group could get this offense going. If Garrett will remain at the wheel, let him have control over his offense. If he fails, at least you gave him the chance to structure his staff and get involved.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

And @mortreport reports that HC Jason Garrett is in line to wind up calling the Cowboys' plays this season. https://t.co/EWri4mZAgH

I know this will not be a popular decision by the Cowboys, but I frankly believe it might work. Although the head coach is the same, this would be a very different staff in 2019. The hire is not yet official, but it all points toward this happening.

Personally, I would've preferred the team to hire an outsider to refresh the ideas in the building. However, I don't hate the idea of Kellen Moore stepping up to the position. And you shouldn't either. At least not until we actually see what he has in store for us.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with every news regarding the Dallas Cowboys.

What do you think of Kellen Moore being the leading candidate for OC?

Tell me what you think about "3 Reasons Not to Hate Kellen Moore Becoming Offensive Coordinator" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Roster Looking Pretty Good for 2019

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

It was hard to watch the 2018 Dallas Cowboys end their season in the Divisional Round versus the Los Angeles Rams. The widely recognized Cowboys’ defense couldn’t find a way to stop the Rams’ running backs. Even still, it was a successful season in many ways. Dak Prescott played well and clearly improved after the team got him a great #1 wide receiver in Amari Cooper. The defense had a breakout season, getting to be one of the best units in the league. Young talent on the team shined bright.

Yet, as every year, the season ends with questions. What was the reason the Cowboys couldn't hold their own against the Rams? What are the team's weak spots? What position should the Cowboys aim to upgrade in the offseason? What was the most relevant problem?

To answer that last question, I can't avoid thinking of the word "play-calling," which was a huge issue in Dallas both in 2018 and in 2017. But the Dallas Cowboys finally pulled the trigger and made a bigger change in the coaching staff. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been released as the team looks to change its offense heading into 2019. Also, a change at defensive coordinator could also be next for Dallas considering Kris Richard’s success since his arrival.

But let's leave coaching aside for a moment. Let's talk about this team's roster. The Cowboys actually have a talented group of players on the team. Of course, there are needs that must be taken care of, but there aren't really that many positions in which the team requires desperate help. Now granted, the front office will be very busy dealing with in-house extensions trying to extend many players' stays in Dallas.

This will be no easy task, but Stephen Jones and company have done a very decent job handling the cap space over the last few years. With much space to work with, there's reason to believe they will get things done. When it comes to adding talent to the team, let's talk about the elephant in the room. The Cowboys lack a first round pick. After all, getting Amari Cooper on the Cowboys had a cost.

But hey, thanks to that trade, Dak Prescott's offense has a great set of wide receivers. Michael Gallup continued to grow as the season went on. The offensive line is not there yet, but I'm confident in Connor Williams being a way better player than he was as a rookie. As for the defense, the Cowboys' front seven is one of the most promising in the entire league. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are one of the best LB duos in football. This is a legit football roster.

The team needs a defensive tackle, an upgrade at safety and probably a more prepared tight end. They probably could use help at many other positions, but I don't mean to rank the biggest concerns on the roster heading into 2019. However, if the front office fails to considerably improve any of these positions, it'll be far from the worst thing to happen.

Cowboys Can't Afford Injuries to Travis Frederick or Jeff Heath

Whether you like him or not, Jeff Heath has been decent enough to be a starter on the team. He won't be great, but he can get the job done. Defensive tackle wasn't a very big issue with Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins stepping up all throughout the season. The tight ends consistently improved week after week, featuring Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin.

Obviously, we want improvements. We want a better player at each position. But once the NFL free agency and the Draft comes around, it'll be important to remember that the Cowboys have a good roster and could get wins with the guys they have now. Desperate moves shouldn't really be on their plans. This is a team with enough talent to win in 2019.

Assuming Kris Richard earns the defensive coordinator title next season, having two new heads among the staff should be refreshing enough to exploit that talent's potential. Talent should be added, and even big time free agents such as Earl Thomas deserve consideration. But this is not a roster that's desperate. In fact, it's a roster in very good shape. The Cowboys might not have a first round pick, but frankly, they are in a very good position to lack a first rounder.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Roster Looking Pretty Good for 2019" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator

John Williams

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It Is Time for the Dallas Cowboys to Move on From Tony Romo

The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.

Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.

First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.

Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.

Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.

Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.

I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.

It's just not going to happen.



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