The Dallas Cowboys secondary is entering the 2018 season with high expectations, although we are still a long way from knowing exactly how this unit will be deployed. Now coached by former Seahawks DC Kris Richard, second-year players like Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie can build on solid rookie campaigns to become top starters.
For Lewis, so far this offseason, the first step of this process must be getting on the field. Playing in 15 games as the Cowboys third round pick in 2017, Lewis outplayed his draft status and became the steal Dallas always knew he could be.
Primarily lining up as an inside player at Michigan, Lewis was impressive in his transition to the next level while also learning how to play on the outside. The 5102 (5′ 1 2/8″) cornerback brought the same athletic cover skills and instincts to this “new” position.
These are certainly traits that Kris Richard will love to see, but so too is the trademark height and length of his former “Legion of Boom” defenses. Such has been the case for the Cowboys through OTAs and into this week’s mini camp, where third-year Cornerback Anthony Brown has continued to impress out of the slot.
Understandably, Lewis will have a hard time keeping his job as a boundary corner over Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones. Drafted a round before Lewis in 2017, Awuzie recovered from injury in his rookie season to appear in 10 games. In Awuzie and Jones, the Cowboys have their ideal mold for two physical cornerbacks on the outside.
It is Jones’ move from safety down to corner that was Richard’s most immediate impact on his new secondary. His next act may very well have to be finding a spot for Jourdan Lewis.
Playing almost unnaturally poised as a sixth round rookie in 2016, the Cowboys working Anthony Brown back to form is far from a bad thing. Brown is the perfect depth piece for any secondary to have, capable of lining up anywhere and adding speed to a defense.
Already proving that he can do much of the same, the Cowboys will be making a mistake if Brown’s continued progress stunts the growth of Lewis. Whether or not both players can coexist on the field at the same time will be another hurdle for both Richard and Rod Marinelli to handle, as Richard’s Passing Game Coordinator responsibilities spill into the coverage assignments of the linebackers.
Favoring Nickel defenses that keep two linebackers on the field, Marinelli has been reluctant to play two cornerbacks like Lewis and Brown at the same time. Right now, these are two players competing for one spot.
Going from a potential fringe player on the roster to one regaining his confidence, Anthony Brown should be looked at as a great developing story for Dallas this season. As the true battle for roster spots begins in Oxnard for training camp though, Brown will have to put aside any previous praise if he’s truly looking to hold off Jourdan Lewis from contributing for the Cowboys.