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Darian Thompson Emerging as Starting Safety Candidate

It feels like the Dallas Cowboys have been trying to get the safety position figured out for quite some time now. They seemingly have their man at free safety with veteran Xavier Woods, however, the strong safety spot remains a question mark.

Jeff Heath, who had been the starter for the last several seasons, is now with the Las Vegas Raiders and has left a hole in the Cowboys secondary. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was signed during free agency and was set to take over the other safety position opposite the aforementioned Woods. To the surprise of many, though, a new candidate has emerged in the safety competition and that’s veteran Darian Thompson who’s having an excellent camp so far.

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Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy on S Darian Thompson: “I’ll say this: He definitely has lived up to his reputation. His work ethic, his workload capacity is outstanding. …He’s having a great camp.” Thompson has emerged as favorite to start in favor of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Last season, Thompson appeared in 15 games as a backup and special teams contributor. In his four starts, he registered 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and three passes defended. He played in 39% of the team’s defensive snaps (424) and 50% of their special teams snaps (223).

When Thompson re-signed with the team in March he was seen more as a depth piece behind Clinton-Dix and someone who would create competition for the backup role with second-year talent Donovan Wilson. Now, it appears the confidence the organization had in bringing him back is paying off.

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MM said safety Darian Thompson is having a great camp and is living up to his reputation.

If Thompson does win one of the starting safety roles it isn’t crazy to understand why the Cowboys would have confidence in him. In 2017 as a member of the New York Giants, Thompson started all 16 games opposite perennial Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins and played very well. He finished with 75 tackles, six passes defended, and an interception.

Although it’s a little disappointing that Clinton-Dix hasn’t stepped up into that starting role competition is always a good thing. With Thompson obviously applying the pressure to Clinton-Dix to start, and Wilson still trying to scratch and claw his way up the depth chart, the starting role opposite Woods has gotten a lot more interesting during this year’s training camp.

Thompson was once a dark horse to get major time on the field this season. But if things continue going the way they have been, Thompson could be one of the Cowboys starting safeties as they look to turn around a defensive unit that regressed in 2019.

What do you think?

Matthew Lenix

Written by Matthew Lenix

I write dope stuff about the Dallas Cowboys and what not.

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  1. I think part of the reason they would like to see the bigger Thompson win the SS spot, is because if u start Woods/Dix together, u basically have two natural FS with no pure SS. Neither Woods or Dix are big physical guys, and the physicality and tacking ability will be compromised if u start both. If Dix is slipping at all in his coverage/ball hawking ability, he is a liability. Thompson is obviously showing enuf ball skills to compete as a starter, and brings the much needed physicality needed in the back end. One of the reasons J Heath held on so long, was due to his tacking ability where safeties are the last line of defense.

    • Regarding the Clinton-Dix/Thompson battle and recent news being told … keep in mind not much in these practices is actually being “seen” by these media folks. And though its okay to accept their reports as they are still the closest to the events of camp, we do have to temper them a bit.

      I’ve not heard anything other than that Thompson is making a surprise showing of late. Certainly nothing to indicate he has suddenly or obviously become ball-skilled. I also believe Clinton-Dix was brought in for two primary reasons, above and beyond his almost 4 INT’s per year … he is familiar with McCarthy (maybe not Nolan) and he is a veteran leader whom may be able to provide guidance to a player like Woods. So not sure I’d label him a liability? Based on recent comments by McCarthy himself about how versatile he wants this DB group to be, we should anticipate seeing all these guys mixing reps with the No.1’s, so we shouldn’t judge any apparent depth chart ascensions just yet.

      I think should they elect to sign Thomas (I would hazard a 25% likelihood), it is Clinton-Dix who may lose the roster spot, despite his guaranteed money. I think they might be willing to eat Clinton-Dix’s guarantee, especially if any contract offered to Thomas is offset by that same amount.

      I think the SS (though relatively inter-changeable) is the bigger need as we need all the run support we can get, and Thomas is probably best suited for that at this stage of his career. I say all this knowing where you stand on the Thomas drama.

      Heath had to go, he wasn’t the sure tackler being suggested. He was a good hard-hitter, but not a sure tackler.

      • Reports have been made that Clinton Dix has not been impressing the coaches lately and Thompson has been doing better than him!! I remember hearing it cause when I heard it, it kinda surprised that Thompson was actually doing better than Clinton Dix!!
        And about Thomas, I don’t think he would be better suited for the strong safety position…. He’s too good of a free safety to change his position like that…. If we got him he would easily be the best safety on the team, so I think they’d put him at free safety and let Woods Thompson and Clinton Dix battle it out for the starting strong safety position!!
        And as far as Jeff Heath goes, I’ll have to agree with you on that part!! And not to mention the fact that he gave up way too many plays too!!

  2. I’m surprised we’re not hearing more on donovan Wilson after such a good preseason last year. I know he was injured some last year that held him back but I thought his name would be coming up more.

  3. This is Thompsons 3rd yr with the cowboys and 5th yr in the league, cowboys may just like the evolution he has made, and maybe see him as a viable and maybe more versatile safety option. If Dix was distinguishing himself more then Thompson, I think we would know that and hear that, the McCarthy connection notwithstanding. Woods is in his 4th yr with this team, he’s the one should be providing leadership. If we don’t get Thomas ur still playing two natural free safeties Woods/Dix. And incidentally I don’t see what special traits Woods brings? He isn’t a ball hawk and he isn’t particularly big or physical. I just hope the cowboys play the best players. Is the upgrade Thomas would offer worth the risk(s) he might present? This isn’t the 2015 Thomas and he would be coming late in the camp process , complicating already precarious continuity we have established/are establishing. I would lose Dix before I parted ways with Thompson/Wilson The fact of the matter is the reg season starts real soon…….absolutely important we quickly get depth chart set and give the 1st team (who ever that ends up being) time to practice/get more reps together. The 1st team should be getting most of the reps right now. (Which Thompson is getting) I still say Heath calling card was tackling/physicality dating back to him making a name on spec teams. He wasn’t known for cov skills. But yea injuries/age caught up to him.

  4. Look….bottom line, you wanna be a contender or an also ran? I haven’t seen my beloved Cowboys in a Superbowl for a quarter century…what?! A perennial All-Pro is sitting at home waiting for a phone call from his ….get this … favorite team thee Dallas Cowboys and we’re not on that? Are the Jones boys serious? While ET was on the ride back to Texas,the Jones hotline shoulda been on fire to this guy….at this point in his career I think he wants to end it a Dallas Cowboy! If he does go to another franchise I really think Jones will never forgive leaving chips on the proverbial poker table,he is an instant difference maker on the back end of a defense that’s been starving for stability since Darren Woodson roamed our back end! Writers are saying stay away he’s become a loose cannon. This my friends is his favorite team,a team he actually would mold his day around just so he would not miss seeing them play! He would be on his best behavior just for the chance to don the Star. At the very least talk to his reps,see what it would take,if we don’t ,I think that poker playin fool Jerry Jones will regret this non committal til the day he dies!!!

    • If they’re gonna make the move, seems they wouldn’t wait much longer. I’m sure they’d want him to start whatever time he has to be quarantined for right away.

      I still don’t think this is a “need” signing by any stretch, but I’m sort of okay with it … if …

      The price is right … and I mean well below the $7m I’ve been hearing. He should only reach max contract value if he makes the Pro Bowl, etc.
      It doesn’t mean letting Wilson go.
      They have clauses in his contract ensuring he behaves or is let go without cost (including missing team meetings).
      He doesn’t come in here entitled. I think this is a big concern. He gets released for all the wrong reasons, then ends up landing on his favorite team, gets handed a starting position as soon as quarantine is over (with maybe 2 weeks of camp left), and he’s already being considered a savior or difference-maker. This is just feeding the beast and rewarding his recent poor behavior … what’s to make him change? To think he’ll just change because he’s donning the star is about as non-diligent as you can get!

      I’m actually more comfortable not signing him, than signing him. Many times the best poker play is to fold.

  5. Not sure Thomas would play for peanuts and agree to multiple clauses just because it’s the cowboys….but maybe he would. But do we even want a player that requires multiple clauses just be a good teammate/professional? Just seems like a big fat distraction we can ILL afford at this critical time in our camp process (And the teams development) Its not like he is the elite player he was 5 yrs ago. If u bring him in the Dix signing was wasted, and the development of Thompson and/or Wilson is pushed back/wasted for another yr I say we roll with what we got. I’m already concerned enuf that 17 days till 1st game, we still have multiple positions up for grabs, ESPECIALLY in the secondary. We need to figure out our 1st team and get more reps together as a unit. We can’t afford to give away games at start of season due to positions being in flux, not getting our starters enuf reps together and lacking the continuity of the more established teams.

    • He may have to settle for peanuts, with the caveat that “peanuts” is still good money … especially if he thinks he’ll be able to keep the $10m Baltimore is going after. If he doesn’t like the offer, then walk away from it.

      You guys are all saying Thompson is outplaying Clinton-Hix, so that signing is already a waste then. So cut Clinton-Dix and allow Thompson/Wilson to keep developing here. The guaranteed money owed Dix should be offset in Thomas’s contract. In no way, shape, or form should a contract offer to Thomas deplete our salary cap buffer.

      If Thomas comes in and just handles his business and play ball, he is not a distraction. Players don’t get as caught up on the media crap. They are about winning and how does a teammate perform. Thomas will only be a distraction if he acts here as he did in Baltimore, and his contract needs to reflect that risk (whether its “peanuts” or whatever).

      A veteran as seasoned as Thomas can acclimate rather quickly (especially if Nolan already deems him as a scheme fit) and certainly be up-to-speed well within the 1st quarter of the season if not by week-1.

      The Cowboys seemingly don’t think a safety is going to cost them a game or two, else Thomas would have been here a couple of years ago (or Adams). If Thomas is to sign here, he is your No.1 the day he walks through the door. This team can absorb Thomas and the ramp up without issue. Everybody knows he’s not the player he was 5 years ago, but he’d still be the best safety on the team today.

      I’ve said it time and again that I don’t believe the Cowboys should persue/sign him … but it can work.

  6. Reason wouldn’t be Thompson outplays Dix, it would be that Thomas takes one of spots earmarked for one of those players, meaning none of the 3 play. If the coaching staff feels Thompson is the choice, it won’t matter what us fans think, as they know much more then we do. I don’t share the optimism over a team “not being affected by” a player who was by all accounts routinely late for meetings/ I’ll prepared and despised by his teammates. Again just not sure he is a big enuf upgrade at this point in his career to justify the risks. But I’ll overlook all that if he signs for one yr at a team friendly and incentive laden contract. I actually think the stars are lining up for the cowboys to make a serious run this year, and who knows when that happens again. Many of our big contributors (especially on defense) will likely be gone next yr and who knows what happens with Dak. This could very well be our best opportunity for a while.

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