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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

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Jess Haynie

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Tavon Austin

It will be a few weeks before new Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin can make a big impression on Dallas fans. But apparently he's already done that with team owner Jerry Jones, who went so far as to compare Austin to the biggest legend in Cowboys WR history.

According to Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com, Jones said the following about Tavon after a recent practice:

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Considering that Michael Irving's energy and leadership were an integral part of the 1990s Super Bowl teams, that's high praise. And given recent developments on the Cowboys offense, that sort of leadership is needed.

Say what you want about their declining performance, but Jason Witten and Dez Bryant were huge voices in the locker room. Their departures left a void of veteran leadership that, hopefully, Tavon Austin is helping to fill.

Personality is great, but a player also has to stand out on the field. Tavon's never been to a Pro Bowl and was almost a non-factor on the Rams last season. He won't keep his teammates' attention long if he's not backing it up with his play.

Michael Irvin's nickname was "The Playmaker." His performance justified his loud voice in the locker room.

Nobody expects Tavon Austin to be the Cowboys leading receiver in 2018, or even in the top three, but he will need to maximize his opportunities on offense and on special teams. He may not get close to the 907 combined yards and nine touchdowns he had as a Ram in 2015, but he still needs to be consistent and do the most with what he's given.

No, Austin's name won't ever be in the Ring of Honor with Michael Irvin's. But playing in his sixth season, Tavon has more experience than a lot of players on this young Cowboys roster. He's seen the highs of being an eight overall draft pick and the lows of being traded for peanuts for by his former team.

Hopefully, all of that has made him a voice of wisdom and encouragement for his new teammates. If so, Tavon Austin is an asset to this Dallas offense.



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Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



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Dallas Cowboys

Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

Brian Martin

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Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

I know it's a little early in the process to start thinking about roster cuts with a few weeks of preseason still remaining, but I've been doing just that. You see, the Dallas Cowboys have very few available spots up for grabs, which means they will have to let go of some talented players.

Once cut, players are subject to the waiver wire and have no control over which team puts in a claim to acquire their service. It's just how things work in the NFL. But, if a team truly values someone at risk of being cut, they could try to work out a trade before the player hits the waiver wire. We have seen the Dallas Cowboys do this in the past.

With so much talent on the roster, the Cowboys could end up shopping some of their players before final cuts are made. There is no way of knowing if anybody would be interested in entering trade discussions for any of the Cowboys potential roster cuts, but I do believe they have a few players who have some trade value.

WR Terrance Williams 

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

With the way some of the Dallas Cowboys younger wide receivers are performing in training camp practices and in preseason, Terrance Williams could find himself on the outside looking in when roster cuts are made. Yes, the Cowboys would have to be willing to swallow the dead money they'd have to take on by releasing him, but it could be worth it if it means keeping someone with more upside.

Williams could be viewed as a progress stopper with the Cowboys right now, which could make him expendable. He may not have value in Dallas any longer, but there are other teams around the NFL who could use his services. It probably wouldn't take more than a 2019 late round draft pick to acquire him if indeed the Cowboys are planning to move on.

TE Rico Gathers 

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

There is an unwarranted fascination surrounding Dallas Cowboys Tight End Rico Gathers, despite very little production to justify it. I'll admit, I was excited about Gathers' development and what he could possibly turn into, but I think my excitement has dwindled. He simply hasn't emerged as of yet and I just don't think the Cowboys coaching staff has much faith in him doing so.

We all know Gathers could be a mismatch in the passing game, but the Cowboys ask a lot more from their TEs in their offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Gathers just hasn't been able to pick up the mental side of the game or develop as a blocker since coming to Dallas. I don't really think he's shown enough in the passing game to warrant a roster spot either, which means his fate could be sealed. But, some other team could be interested in trading for him instead of trying to pick him up off of waivers.

DE Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Dallas Cowboys DE Kony Ealy

At the time, I thought the Dallas Cowboys signing Defensive End Kony Ealy in the offseason was a good move. He provided some much-needed depth to the DE position, but that was before and this is now. Unfortunately for Ealy, he could be buried on the depth chart behind some young up-and-coming pass rushers with more upside.

This year's fourth-round draft pick Dorance Armstrong hass been a pleasant surprise so far and has probably secured a roster spot. Taco Charlton, the Cowboys first-round draft pick last year, looks like an entirely different player and isn't going anywhere. Then, you add in the return of Randy Gregory and that just doesn't leave much room for Ealy. But, the veteran could have other suitors around the league, prompting the Cowboys to trade him.

DE Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper

Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Tapper (Paul Spinelli via AP)

It's really unfortunate Charles Tapper hasn't really been healthy since joining the Dallas Cowboys. I think he is talented with starting potential, but injuries have prevented him from becoming the player I think he could be. But, just like Kony Ealy, Tapper is stuck in a numbers crunch and will likely be a roster cut when all is said and done.

I'm actually going to be a little disappointed to see Tapper go. I've been a fan of his, but there's comes a time when you have to cut ties, and his time looks as if it's up. He is as physically gifted as just about any defensive end in the NFL, which could mean another team would like to take a chance on him and work out a trade with the Cowboys.

Do you think any of these potential Dallas Cowboys roster cuts get traded?



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