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Despite Safety Depth, Rookie Chidobe Awuzie Should Be Option For Dallas

Sean Martin

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Despite Safety Depth, Rookie Chidobe Awuzie Should Be Option For Dallas

The first phase of the Cowboys' offseason program is complete, with the team off until July 22nd for the start of training camp. Once there in Oxnard, Dallas' new-look defense will get a chance to shine as the pads come on - particularly this uncertain group of safeties.

A microcosm for Rod Marinelli's defense as a whole, the Cowboys' current depth chart at safety features a ton of names but little certainty outside of Byron Jones. Ever since drafting Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have seen the immediate impact that adding athleticism and length to their secondary can have - coming out of this year's draft with three rookie corners and safety Xavier Woods.

Along with Woods, the Cowboys have options at safety including Jeff Heath - who's been impossible to take off the field so far through OTAs - veteran Robert Blanton, second-year player Kavon Frazier, and converted QB Jameill Showers.

A player that should be in this mix as well is rookie "cornerback" Chidobe Awuzie, the 60th overall pick out of Colorado that brings outstanding versatility and ball skills to America's Team. Awuzie played free safety as a sophomore in the PAC 12 before transitioning back to CB while continuing to excel in both press and off coverage.

nfldraft awuzie 2 – Streamable

I think the best trait Awuzie can immediately bring to the Cowboys in his first season is his play making ability on the football when plays develop in front of him. Chidobe is a fluid player that is more than comfortable flipping his hips and playing with his back to the ball, but posesses a "my ball" mentality when driving downhill at safety with sideline-to-sideline range.

What Awuzie can also bring to this group of safeties is an identity, not only for himself but for the players below him should he start alongside Byron Jones.

The Cowboys aren't shy when it comes to rotating third and fourth safeties on the field to constantly change the back end looks opposing offenses will see (a necessity with an inconsistent pass rush), which is a needed role that I believe both Heath and Woods are best suited for.

Jason Garrett Embraces CB Chidobe Awuzie’s Flexibility in Cowboys Secondary

Leaving Awuzie at cornerback, where the Cowboys already have solid starters in Nolan Carroll, Orlando Scandrick, and Anthony Brown along with expected contributors Jourdan Lewis and Marquez White could easily expose Dallas' depth at safety.

A safety rotation of Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Heath, and Jones was very effective in 2016 because each safety brought something new to the defense on every snap. With Byron Jones as the only Dallas safety that currently brings every-down capability, expecting Heath or Woods to progress in the same role would be unfair.

Dallas could presumably put three safeties on the field at times in 2017 as well, in need of a box or enforcer player, but their best two safety look right now is Jones and Awuzie.

Not only is this pairing the best combination of coverage skills deep in the secondary, but it is best for the cornerbacks - another position that will be sorted out in training camp with fiery battles throughout - that will eventually play in front of these safeties in a suddenly hyper-athletic and young Cowboys secondary.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Safety Depth, Rookie Chidobe Awuzie Should Be Option For Dallas" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?

Brian Martin

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How Much can RB Tony Pollard eat Into Zeke's 2019 Workload?

Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.

Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.

Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.

Tony Pollard

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard

There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?

Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.

Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.

In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.

What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?



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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable

Matthew Lenix

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Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Formidable

Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.

The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.

Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).

Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.

Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.

The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.



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CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season

Kevin Brady

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Seldom-Used CB Jourdan Lewis Could Play Big Role Against Saints

For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.

In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.

After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.

Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.

 "As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."

Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.

Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.

"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."

The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.

Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.



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