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Cowboys Draft Four Defensive Backs; Who’s In, Who’s Out?

Jess Haynie

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Jourdan Lewis

We went into the 2017 NFL Draft knowing that the Dallas Cowboys needed to add talent to their secondary. They clearly knew it too, spending four of their top-six picks on defensive backs. Now, the question is what all these new arrivals mean for the current talent and the projected final roster.

To get us started, let's quickly recap the personnel moves since the end of last season. The Cowboys said goodbye to several key players in free agency while adding a couple of veteran replacements.

DEPARTURES

ARRIVALS

RETURNING

  • CB Orlando Scandrick
  • CB Anthony Brown
  • S Byron Jones
  • S Jeff Heath
  • S Kavon Frazier

There are the primary names to be concern with. There are other players under contract, such as cornerback Leon McFadden and quarteback-turned-safety Jameil Showers. However, these guys are likely no more than training camp bodies. We're going to focus on the guys who figure to be on the 2017 roster.

Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie was the first of Dallas' four drafted defensive backs.

Draft Impact

As we said at the outset, Dallas clearly recognized their needs and last week's draft reflected it. The Cowboys drafted two  on Friday night with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. On Saturday they spent sixth-round picks on safety Xavier Woods and CB Marquez White.

Generally a team will have 8-10 defensive backs on their 53-man roster. These draft picks in addition to the current talent gives Dallas 11 guys competing for spots. At least one guy, if not a couple more, will be left out.

Now, to be fair, sixth-round picks are hardly guaranteed to make the roster. You might make an exception in the case of Xavier Woods, though, given reports that Dallas had him highly ranked on their board.

Also, after seeing what Anthony Brown did last year as a sixth-round pick, you can be sure that Woods and Marquez White will not be taken lightly in the months ahead. Teams never cut drafted players lightly, so they will get every opportunity to make the team.

Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

Cornerbacks

The fallout from the talent additions in the draft seems to have already started. On Friday night, just minutes after Dallas drafted Awuzie, reports started that the Cowboys were trying to trade veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Jerry Jones has since denied those reports by Scandrick, but Orlando has made comments through the media that suggest he thought the rumor was true.

For now, we'll take Jerry at his word and assume Scandrick will still be a Cowboys in 2017. It makes more sense; can you really trust Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Awuzie to do the heavy lifting with just one year of combined experience? Do you really want Nolan Carroll as your only veteran corner?

The Cowboys' hope will be that Awuzie, Brown, and Lewis develop to the point that Dallas trusts them to be their top three corners in 2018. They can then cut both Scandrick and Carroll for cap relief. Right now, cutting or trading Scandrick would generate more dead money ($6.16 million) than his 2017 cap hit ($5.28 million) counts.

The logical plan is for Dallas to have their top three youngsters and two veterans on this year's roster. I would expect for Marquez White to end up on the practice squad unless and injury opens the door for him.

Jeff Heath

S Jeff Heath

Safeties

If you're a fan of Jeff Heath being a starter next year than this was a good draft week for you. Dallas did not add anyone in the upper rounds who would be expected to come in and compete immediately for the job. If anything, the Cowboys' obvious focus on drafting defensive backs with ball skills speaks to why they are comfortable with Heath moving forward.

The addition of Xavier Woods in the sixth round should be far more concerning to projected backups Robert Blanton and Kavon Frazier. If we assume that there will only be the traditional two backups spots available, someone is going to be left without a chair when the music stops.

Even though he just signed with the team on April 20th, the veteran Blanton should probably be most concerned. We know it was a one-year deal don't have details yet on the money. However, we can safely assume it's a minimal amount and Dallas left themselves able to easily release Blanton depending on how the draft and the remainder of the offseason unfolded.

My current projection is that Heath and Byron Jones will start while Woods and Frazier are the backups. Blanton's hope will be that neither of those young players show that they're ready for major minutes and Dallas leans on the veteran as a primary reserve. However, Frazier will have every chance to earn that role in his second year.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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12 Comments
  • Thomas Williams

    PLS WOODS STEP UP QUICK…IM NOT SOLD ON HEALTH….

  • Bryan Crystal Reser

    White won’t last on the practice squad.another team would steal him

  • EverybodyTalks

    I feel confident that Xavier will stay. He can play FS and in a pinch, SS. Heath is a great Special Teams guy and when he comes in to play Safety, good things happen. I think the competition is between Frazier and Blankton.

    • Bryan Crystal Reser

      So when woods is our FS where do u put Byron Jones.. oh wait I get it Dallas just drafted 3 corner backs and singed one in free agency just to move our starting FS to corner. Yea that sounds like a plan..Hell they might as well try dez at QB he’s got a strong arm

      • Jess Haynie

        Calm down, chief. He didn’t say Woods was going to be a starter.

        • EverybodyTalks

          Thanks. Took the words right out of my mouth. I do agree with Bryan about White on the PS.

  • Russ_Te

    For Scandrick, his contract vs field impact makes him a questionable trade prospect IMO. If you are committed to secondary youth, and several of the young players are showing well in camp, you might catch a team that will pull the trigger for Scandrick because they lost a starter in preseason, etc.

    Might as well angle for that, and then he’s still around for camp if it looks like you’ll need him as a starter or slot CB in 2017.

    My reading of Woods at his size, and again he has to deliver at camp, is that he can only play FS and is intended for there when he’s ready to start. That moves Jones to CB, and I like that idea opposite Awuzie. That’s a lot of ability at starting CB’s.

    That would in turn allow Lewis & Brown to develop with less pressure as slot and long downs players. Making Scandrick expendable.

    It all sets up for a fascinating camp. In 1981 Landry started 3 rookies in the secondary, and it turned into a strength of the team. There might be some kind of cohesion factor in coming up together.

    • Bryan Crystal Reser

      B Jones is a lot better FS then a shut down corner. Lewis was the best cover corner in the draft who will play the slot Awuzie will play outside. And why would u sit brown there’s a real good chance he’s our best corner this year he had two picks one for a touchdown if u count preseason and played his ass off all year.and to say Xavier woods can’t play SS is pretty funny he’s yet to take the field and is already the hardest hitter we got on defense and really could ball skills..You may need to watch his game tape..He hits harder then Wilcox and covers better than church.. they replaced both of them when they picked woods.you can say I’m wrong but when he lines up day one splitting snaps with Heath go back and read this lol..

      • Jess Haynie

        I agree that Brown’s not going to the bench. He is way better than sixth-round guy should be and now has a year of experience. He was arguably just as effective as any of our veteran guys last year. I see little chance that he’s not starting in 2017.

      • Russ_Te

        Starts with draft intentions on Woods. Almost certainly to eventually start, and almost certainly at FS not SS (too small at 5′ 11″ / 197).

        Jones wasn’t given a full look at CB before moving inside. He has speed and can leap, and he’s not sitting behind Brown at CB, so that is where my shuffle puts them each.

        It’s possible the idea is for Woods to bulk up for SS, but IMO that’s less likely than it is that Jones moves back to CB. We shall see.

        • http://www.CowboysFans.com CowboysFans.com

          I think we’re moving to something more like what Marinelli did in Chicago with two coverage safeties, not having the traditional SS. It makes sense when you think about how the Cover 2 works.

        • Jess Haynie

          I think we’re moving to something more like what Marinelli did in Chicago with two coverage safeties, not having the traditional SS. It makes sense when you think about how the Cover 2 works.

Dallas Cowboys

5 Points: Analyzing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule

Sean Martin

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5 Points: Thoughts on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule 1
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Every year around this time, sports fans everywhere are reminded of just how dominant the National Football League is. The NFL schedule release is literally just the sharing of a calendar that has little meaning until after next week's NFL Draft, but still dominates headlines both before and after the event.

If the Dallas Cowboys are going to return to the playoffs in 2018, we now know the path they will take -- beginning on September 9th in Carolina against the Panthers.

Here are five of my initial thoughts on this team's schedule.

1. "Early" Bye Week Still Later Than Recent Seasons

The Cowboys' bye week falls in week eight this season, which is certainly nothing new. This team is used to having their bye earlier in the season, but week eight is actually the latest it's been over the last three seasons.

In Dak Prescott's rookie season, the Cowboys rolled to six straight wins following their bye week - all part of a longer 11 game win streak. In 2017, the Cowboys played their final three games with Ezekiel Elliott after the bye, improving to 5-3 and inspiring hope for a salvageable season before further injuries piled up.

This season, the Cowboys will come out of their bye week to host Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.

5 Points: Thoughts on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule

2. AFC South to Play A Huge Factor

Speaking of the Titans, it is the NFC East's year to face off against the AFC South. This has been an unpredictable division as of late, with the Jacksonville Jaguars emerging as early favorites following their improbable run to the AFC Championship Game.

Unlike the NFC East, the AFC South has been decided by who maintains stability at quarterback. The Colts are hoping to contend with Andrew Luck back on the field in 2018, as are the Texans with second-year QB Deshaun Watson.

The Titans overhauled their coaching staff in hopes of progressing QB Marcus Mariota further to make a run at the playoffs once again.

For the Cowboys, their meetings with the AFC South will carry extra weight - as all but one of them precedes a divisional game in some sense. Following back to back games at the Texans and home against the Jaguars, the Cowboys will visit the Redskins in week seven.

The first shot Dallas will get at the defending Super Bowl champions will be November 11th in Philadelphia, two weeks removed from their bye after facing the Titans.

Coming out of two games in 12 days through weeks 12 (Thanksgiving) and 13, the Cowboys will have little chance to come up for air against the Eagles in week 14. Their chance to regroup may come the following week, with a favorable December road game in Indianapolis against the Colts.

3. Revenge Against the Falcons

The Cowboys' week 10 game a year ago in Atlanta is truly where the 2017 season was lost. Playing without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys looked lost on offense thanks to the added absence of All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith.

The Cowboys' fight to carry on at 5-4 was buried into the Falcons' new turf, as was Dak Prescott that afternoon, sacked eight times.

Only a week removed on the calendar from meeting the Falcons on the same date, the Cowboys will again play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in week 11 this season. The chance for revenge against the Falcons will also mark the only pair of consecutive road games this 2018 Dallas Cowboys team will play.

Cowboys en Español: 3

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

4. Running Through December

The national media may not want you to know that the Cowboys are a combined 6-2 in December over the last two seasons, as this team's fabled late season collapses remain a topic of conversation.

This point also stands as a great example of why breaking down team schedules in April is often a pointless exercise, but not obsessing over every twist and turn of the NFL as a yearly hobby is no fun. According to me.

It is no secret that the Cowboys will be relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, expecting their star running back to suit up for 16 games and carry the offense. If you believe that Prescott and Elliott paired together full-time again is enough reason for optimism about the Cowboys, their December schedule becomes even more favorable.

Aside from playing three of the four games indoors and away from the elements, the Cowboys will face three of the worst rushing defenses in yards per game allowed from last season in December. With the Eagles being the glaring exception (leading the league in this category), the Cowboys should have their way on the ground with the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants over their final three games.

5. Thanksgiving Tradition

For the second time in three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were victorious on Thanksgiving in 2016 over the Redskins, 31-26.

The Cowboys have only lost to the Redskins once on Thanksgiving, facing them a total of eight times and dropping a 2012 bout with Washington 38-31 (Robert Griffin III's rookie season with the Redskins).

Riding a four game winning streak against the Redskins, the Cowboys get to face an Alex Smith led Washington team on Thanksgiving to wrap up their first series against the NFC East. Following week 12, the Cowboys will still have meetings with the Eagles and New York Giants.

Some may look at this year's division as a two-team race, but counting absolutely any team out of an NFC East race is foolish - even more so in April.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

By this time next week, the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to look entirely different - adding as many as ten players at the 2018 NFL Draft. Only then will we have a better feel for how they stack up against this 2018 schedule.

Stay posted right here to Inside The Star for draft coverage live from Dallas, as I will be at AT&T Stadium for all seven rounds of picks alongside Slant Sports Draft Analyst Nick Flaherty.

Tell us what you think about "5 Points: Analyzing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Player News

Cowboys TE James Hanna Retiring

Jess Haynie

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James Hanna

In an unexpected bit of pre-draft news, Dallas Cowboys backup tight end James Hanna will be retiring after six seasons. He was drafted by the Cowboys in sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

The news of Hanna's retirement was first reported by ESPN's Todd Archer:

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys will place James Hanna on the reserve/retired list as the tight end could not get over a serious knee condition that troubled him for most of the last two seasons, according to sources. Hanna was not involved in the early part of the team's... https://t.co/45BAZ2avSC

Hanna, who turns 29 in July, missed all of 2016 with that knee issue and has had two surgeries. He was active for all 16 games last season but wasn't used much on offense, only having four catches. James did catch his first and only NFL touchdown in the team's Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Many thought Hanna would be a salary cap casualty this offseason, but a retirement has the same effect on the cap. The Cowboys now save $2.75 million off his scheduled $3.5 mullion cap hit in 2018.

James Hanna has stuck around this long thanks to being a proficient blocker and one of the standout players on special teams. Geoff Swaim, entering the final year of his rookie deal, will likely be trusted to fill those roles.

That said, tight end was already a targeted position for the Cowboys in next week's draft. Losing Hanna only give the team more incentive to add more talent.


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Player News

Optimistic Reports Emerge Around Randy Gregory

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Randy Gregory, Eagles
Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

Good news are coming to Dallas just in time. Less than a week from now, the NFL Draft will be held in the Cowboys' home, the AT&T Stadium. But the team may count with a defensive talent many in Cowboys Nation have tried to forget for a while now. Randy Gregory's comeback may just happen.

There's a lot of positions in the roster that need more help than the defensive end one, but after finding the "War Daddy" Jerry Jones has always wanted in DeMarcus Lawrence, finding a RDE this offseason would be a dream scenario.

Sure, there's a lot of young talent in this football team and they'll be coming off a season that put a chip on their shoulders. Even so, they'll need all the help they can get.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, some help could come in form of a very talented pass rusher. Randy Gregory is reportedly applying for reinstatement very soon and according to Mike Fisher and Bobby Belt, there are positive reports around the situation.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

Randy Gregory update: I'm told there is real momentum building. He is expected to apply for reinstatement in the week or two following next week's NFL Draft.

Cowboys Nation last saw the second round pick back in 2016, but his potential shouldn't be forgotten. Of course, the Cowboys shouldn't be considering Gregory for their 2018 plans, simply because there's risk of him not being available.

Even still, Dallas may get lucky at defensive end. After DeMarcus Lawrence has a breakout season in 2017, imagine the defensive line with Randy Gregory reinstated and rehabilitated to exploit his talent in the NFL.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

UPDATE: We're told Randy Gregory camp is ready to present to NFL the fact the #Cowboys DE has passed a large number of drug tests, hasn't failed one since July 2016. https://t.co/Hjgu2CqRtC

Despite some TMZ "reports", it looks like Gregory has been clean for a while. It sure should make Cowboys' fans happy and not only form a football perspective. A comeback would definitely be something amazing. He has a chance to write a unique story for himself.

Everyone likes second-chance stories. Gregory is a guy who had his share of problems. By coming back to the NFL, he's showing players and fans that change is possible. This wouldn't just be epic for Dallas Cowboys fans but NFL fans in general.

If Dallas is fortunate enough to see Gregory reinstated by the NFL, their fight in the trenches might see a big upgrade next season. Randy still has a lot to work on and he might not even be a starter right away, but the potential is right there.

The Cowboys could become a team capable of dominating the line of scrimmage both on offense and on defense.

Hopefully, Gregory is able to come back and shine as a professional player. He, and NFL fans deserve a story like that.

Tell me what you think about "Optimistic Reports Emerge Around Randy Gregory" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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