They got to work In free agency right away, signing Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal (while he’s shifting to linebacker, he will still help defend against the pass and mix-in reps at safety), and Jayron Kearse.
They followed it up by using a 2nd round pick (Kelvin Joseph – CB), a 3rd round pick (Nahshon Wright – CB), and a 6th round pick (Israel Mukuamu – CB/S) to bring in more competition to the secondary for the upcoming season.
Despite the influx of new faces and multi-positional talents, the Cowboys’ x-factor in the secondary may come from one of the few starters leftover from their disastrous 2020 campaign; Safety Donovan Wilson. It was easy to write off the defense as a whole last season, but Wilson played better on an individual level than a lot of people realize in his first season as a starter.
In 14 games he showed a knack for consistently putting himself in positions to make big plays, finishing with 71 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, three passes defended, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and three QB hits (more on this later).
He has room to improve in coverage as he allowed completions on 66.7% of the passes thrown in his direction, but the additions of Kazee (one of the best coverage safeties in the game when healthy), Neal, and Mukuamu will free Wilson up to do what he does best; blitz the QB and attack RBs in the run game.
While 3.5 sacks and three QB hits don’t jump off the page as huge numbers, it becomes more impressive when you realize this was done on just eight total blitzes. Almost every time he was given the chance to attack he made something happen. Expect this number to go up in 2021 under Dan Quinn.
He was on the field for right around 60% of the defensive snaps last season and should finish in that same 60-70% range in 2021. At worst he will serve as an excellent depth piece at safety as Kazee comes back from a torn Achilles (and the league as a whole adjusts to a 17-game slate). I don’t think it’s crazy to envision a world in which Donovan Wilson finishes the 2021 season as the most productive safety on the roster.