For years now, the Dallas Cowboys have foregone any type of investment in the safety position whether in the draft or in free agency. They've opted for bargains in free agency, late-round selections in the draft or undrafted free agents to fill their ranks in the back end of their secondary.
Just last year, with a deep safety class in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys passed on upgrading the position and attempted to find pass rush help in the interior of their defensive line. Well, the Cowboys sit here in the 2020 offseason yet again looking at a potentially deep group of safeties in both free agency and the draft and will have the opportunity to upgrade the position by pairing a playmaker with incumbent starter Xavier Woods.
Let's talk about Safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
As primarily a free safety for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Antoine Winfield Jr. played in 10 games as a freshman, starting seven of them. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Winfield Jr. only played in eight games, missing a lot of time due to injuries.
In the 2019 season, he rebounded with an excellent season intercepting seven passes, returning one for a touchdown, while adding three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 83 tackles while starting all 12 games for the 11-2 Golden Gophers.
He doesn't have great size, listed at just 5-10, but his compact frame carries 205 pounds and it doesn't seem to slow him down at all. Winfield Jr. plays with great play speed. He comes downhill fast when asked to blitz or help in run support. He times the blitz well rushing between the guard and the center. He consistently attempts to wrap up when making tackles and rarely missed in the games scouted. When playing in pursuit, he takes excellent angles and rarely is found chasing the play.
In Minnesota's defense, he played primarily as a deep safety in a variety of two-man and single-high safety looks. He has the range to play sideline to sideline in both single-high and cover two. In his senior season, Winfield Jr. showed a penchant for getting his hands on the football and is a natural playmaker. With seven interceptions, six passes defended, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries, he's a player that could help turn around the Cowboys inability to create turnovers.
Obviously, the injuries that kept him out of games in the 2017 and 2018 seasons are a concern that, but his ability to bounce back and play 12 games in 2019 should help to alleviate any concerns about his ability to stay healthy.
He'll be a player on the Dallas Cowboys radar as new Defensive Backs Coach Maurice Linguist was in the same position in 2017 and 2018 and has a relationship with Antoine Winfield Jr. The Cowboys should be able to get excellent insight into who Winfield Jr. is as a player and a person.
The Dallas Cowboys need more playmakers in the secondary if they're going to accomplish the things they want to accomplish as a defense under Mike Nolan and Antoine Winfield, Jr. is someone who could help the Cowboys get there.