With Morris Claiborne banged up, the release of Corey White yesterday came as a shock to me, and many fans alike. It seemed throughout the preseason and in limited opportunities during the regular season that White was capable of coming in and being productive from either the outside corner or in the slot. Obviously, the coaching staff had a very different opinion, considering the release came at a time where numbers at the position are not a luxury.
After the release, the Cowboys brought up CB Deji Olatoye from the practice squad, a second-year player out of North Carolina A&T. It seems to me that Olatoye is more of a developmental future prospect, but the timing of the move suggests otherwise. I also don’t have the luxury of seeing how he performs in practice on a daily basis, like the coaching staff.
However, for the point of this article let’s assume that Olatoye won’t have a big role this Sunday… So where does that leave the Dallas secondary?
They are in a bit of a dilemma here as neither Byron Jones or Tyler Patmon have played outside much – if at all – this season. However, if I had to guess purely on experience, I think Patmon would be the likely starter on the outside opposite Carr, leaving the rookie Byron Jones with slot duties, something he is at least somewhat familiar with.
With Byron Jones likely playing one of the corner slots, the concern immediately popped into my head about who will take on the duties of covering the tight ends.
I believe it will be a combination of things, I expect Jeff Heath to have a larger role as the coverage safeties, as I get the impression the coaching staff just truly does not trust J.J. Wilcox. Furthermore, I’d expect Barry Church to also have a larger role in the passing game than previous weeks. With the luxury of having Jones play safety, Church was able to play the majority of the games close to the line of scrimmage and more in a Linebacker role than a Safety role.
It’s no secret that Jeff Heath is not a fan favorite, and frankly coverage is not his strength. However, it seemed odd to me that – even with Morris Claiborne healthy – Heath was getting a lot of snaps in passing situations, sometimes over JJ Wilcox and sometimes 4 safeties, including Jones, would be on the field. Taking that for what it is I feel like this coaching staff has a very different opinion on Heath’s ability than us fans.
We are all aware of the troubles our safeties have had, coverage wise, for probably the last 10 years. Just when it seemed Jones was the answer, desperation gets him moved to corner and once again leaves the Cowboys hanging on the back end.
Who’s gonna cover the RBs?
Well, I think much will remain unchanged and the duty will be up to the linebackers. Over the past couple weeks, going against VERY good pass catching running back corps (Sproles with Philadelphia & Charles Sims with Tampa Bay), the Linebackers did more than hold their own. They left the game without letting any RB really have an impact in the passing game, and have earned the right to continue to cover them going forward.
It will be interesting to see how the secondary and defense as a whole reacts to the shuffling of personnel. I expect to see some lapse in coverage from the safeties and I think we will miss Jones’ presence back there (amazing to say that about a rookie), but as a whole I expect them to play well against an inconsistent but dangerous Miami offense.