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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.

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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

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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