The Dallas Cowboys held their fifth practice of training camp yesterday and it was a padded one. After nearly a week at training camp, it seems like each position group has had its moments in Oxnard, California. On Thursday, it was the defensive back group that stood out on a strong day for the defense as a whole.
Even without one of their starters in Byron Jones, the depth at corner that the Dallas Cowboys feature in Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, and Michael Jackson brings a lot of talent and a lot of fight to the cornerback position. These guys are playmakers that bring an edge, which was on full display during Thursday's practice.
David Helman from Dallas Cowboys.com spent a considerable part of his practice notes talking about the play of the defensive back group yesterday.
“The defense held its own during the one-on-one portion of practice, as well. As is customary, the quarterbacks and receivers broke off to go against each other. The wide receivers had their share of wins, but it was easy to see the number of breakups on the day. Jourdan Lewis came away with three PBU's on the day, while Anthony Brown also handled himself well. Having given up a touchdown to Jon'Vea Johnson, Mike Jackson rebounded nicely against Randall Cobb. Dak Prescott's throw to Cobb on a comeback route was a bit late, and Jackson stepped in front of it for a pick-six.”
David Helman – DallasCowboys.com
The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of success finding defensive backs in the later rounds in recent years with their selections of Anthony Brown in 2016 and Xavier Woods in 2017. Fifth-round pick Michael Jackson may continue that trend as he has started to shine in training camp. On Thursday, several observers mentioned him as having a really nice day.
Jackson is likely in line to be the team's fifth cornerback if he can continue this play. He's a player that could be an option for the Cowboys in the slot or on the outside. With the effort and production he's shown early in camp, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about his prospects for 2019 and beyond.
While Jackson may be depth for the Cowboys right now, Jourdan Lewis is going to be relied upon to be a starter in the slot or on the outside for as long as Byron Jones is out. If for some reason Jones is unable to start the season, Lewis will be on the field in nickel situations, at least, but could find his way playing more in the Cowboys base defense.
There are many who consider Jourdan Lewis one of the better cover players on the team but just isn't getting the opportunities because of the perceived lack of size. Lewis may not be tall, but he's got long enough arms, and plays big enough, to be a disruptive player for the Dallas Cowboys secondary.
Jackson and Lewis weren't the only ones to make plays during the Cowboys practice yesterday. Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods put in some nice work as well during Thursday's session.
“Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods carried the defense in the Compete Period, too. Brown fought off Michael Gallup for a PBU on the first rep of the period, while Xavier Woods battled Jason Witten downfield and forced an incompletion. ”
David Helman – DallasCowboys.com
Jason Witten is one of the better and more nuanced route runners on the Dallas Cowboys. Xavier Woods is pretty good in man coverage and is giving the Dallas Cowboys a lot of reason to be excited for 2019 and the future. Here he is in a one on one in the compete period of practice vs the future hall of famer.
Woods is right with Witten the entire way and leaves a very small window for Dak Prescott to attempt to fit the ball in for the completion. Dak attempts to get the ball to Witten over Woods and it's overthrown. A pass any lower and Woods likely breaks it up or comes down with an interception.
Xavier Woods is the reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't pursue Earl Thomas or another free agent safety this offseason. He's also the reason that the Dallas Cowboys opted to select Trysten Hill with their pick in the second round instead of Juan Thornhill or Taylor Rapp. There are big things coming for Woods in 2019.
Jourdan Lewis might have had the best day among the cornerbacks, but Anthony Brown wasn't far behind. At this point in training camp, it looks as if Brown is starting in Byron Jones spot on the outside. Brown is an aggressive cover player and has consistently made plays on the football in his first three seasons in Dallas.
On Thursday, Brown continued to show that aggressiveness as he broke up a pass intended for Michael Gallup during practice yesterday.
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With Kris Richard at the helm and a deep and improved pass rush, this should be a banner year for the Dallas Cowboys secondary. They've legitimately got four cornerbacks who could start for most NFL teams and a fifth one that is showing a lot of promise. If they can continue to make plays on the football like they've done in training camp this season, it's going to be really difficult for teams to score.
They're a complete unit on the back end and despite some issues at strong safety, they're going to hold their own in the passing game. 2019 will feature far more coverage sacks than we've seen in years past because these guys are going to keep opposing pass-catchers locked down.