After free agency there was no secret what the Dallas Cowboys' biggest holes were going into the draft. They certainly needed talent along the defensive line, but more importantly they needed bodies at cornerback.
With Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Leon McFadden, and Jeremiah McKinnon being the only defensive backs under contract, Dallas needed to bring in bodies, but bodies with talent.
The Shopping Spree
The Dallas Cowboys certainly didn't ignore their secondary this off-season, adding more than enough players to the mix to battle for a spot on the Cowboys roster.
After losing two of their starting Corners to free agency (Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr), the Cowboys signed Nolan Carroll in free agency after spending three years in Philadelphia. Carroll will likely be handed one of the starting cornerback spots due to his experience at the position, the size of his contract, and talent at the position.
The Cowboys also loaded up on CBs in the draft spending three of their nine draft picks on guys to fill Carr and Claiborne's shoes. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White were all drafted by the Cowboys to come in and compete for a starting role and at least a rotational role right away.
The Cowboys CB depth this time last year looked a little like:
- Morris Claiborne (Signed by NYJ via Free Agency)
- Brandon Carr (Signed by BAL via Free Agency)
- Orlando Scandrick (Under Contract by DAL)
- Anthony Brown (Under Contract by DAL)
- Leon McFadden (Under Contract by DAL)
- Deji Olatoye (Signed by ATL)
- Josh Thomas (Free Agent)
- Buddy Jackson (Free Agent)
- Terrance Mitchell (Signed by KC)
The Cowboys Current CB depth looks a lot different:
- Nolan Carroll (Signed by DAL via Free Agency)
- Orlando Scandrick (Returning Player)
- Anthony Brown (Returning Player)
- Chidobe Awuzie (2nd Round Pick)
- Jourdan Lewis (3rd Round Pick)
- Marquez White (6th Round Pick)
- Duke Thomas (UDFA)
- Sammy Seamster (Returning Practice Squad Player)
- Leon McFadden (Returning Player)
- Jeremiah McKinnon (Returning Player)
As you will notice there are only three familiar names between the two lists. Scandrick, Brown, and McFadden are the only returning players from 2016. Pretty crazy, huh?
Projecting The Cornerback Depth Chart
Now obviously the team will not keep all of the 10 players currently on the roster, they certainly have some sorting to do, but when you take a look at the roster you can all but guarantee Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis are locks to make the final 53 Man Roster.
At most, one more player may make the Dallas Cowboys' opening day roster bringing the final total of cornerbacks to six. That is where former Florida State Seminole Marquez White must fight to earn his star.
White has some stiff competition ahead of him in Leon McFadden and Jeremiah McKinnon. Both of these players spent time on the active game-day roster last season as bottom-of-the-depth-chart type of guys. White showed flashes of being a very good player at Florida State, but never played at a consistently high level.
What the Cowboys could try to do is stash Marquez White on their practice squad, but that is a big risk to take, which may force them to go ahead and carry six CBs.
CB Position's Biggest Issue?
When you look at the talent of the players who will be forced to start or contribute early, it leaves me with little worry.
Nolan Carroll - Isn't a flashy or dominant player, but he does his job and creates turnovers. That's something this defense has been lacking for a very long time.
Orlando Scandrick - He is what he is. Scandrick is probably a top-10 slot CB in the league.
Anthony Brown - Brown is a question mark. He was great last year as a rookie after being drafted in the sixth round in 2016, and forced into playing time after injuries to Claiborne and Scandrick. Brown responded as well as he could, being a very solid player on the boundary and in the slot. The second year player shows no signs of slowing down and will look to fight for a full-time starting job at OTAs and Training Camp.
We have yet to see how Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis will handle the NFL level of play, but their college film shows that -- out of the slot -- both players were as good as they come. Both Awuzie and Lewis have the versatility to play as a nickel back or as a base corner along the boundary.
What worries me is that four of the five guys I talked about above are or played better in the slot than they did as a boundary CB. Anthony Brown played at a high level at both and I see him having little to no problem being a very productive starting CB in the Cowboys' base defense.
Where my worry comes into play most is with Orlando Scandrick and Jourdan Lewis. Orlando Scandrick played on the boundary quite a bit last year and, at times, really struggled. Scandrick plays his best when he's asked to do one job and that job is line up across from whoever the opposing team's slot receiver is and stick to him like glue.
Jourdan Lewis actually showed at Michigan that he can play along the boundary and do so at a high level. The problem comes in with Lewis' size. Lewis is listed at 5'10" 188 lbs but played like a giant at Michigan. If that translates to the NFL then my worries will go away. But as well all know, the NFL is a different beast. Slot receivers in the NFL are bigger, stronger, craftier, and faster.
Can Jourdan Lewis play for the Cowboys like the "alpha dog" he proved he was at Michigan? We'll have to find out.
Chidobe Awuzie was a Swiss army knife for the Colorado Buffaloes. Awuzie played on the boundary, in the slot, and even played some safety for his former team and played all the positions he was asked to play at an extremely high level. I trust Awuzie's ability to play on the boundary more due to size, instincts, and his ability to stay close to his man in coverage.
After watching Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox all leave in free agency, a lot of Cowboys fans worried how they would rebuild their secondary, or if they could do it at all.
There's no doubt about it that they brought in the fire power to do so, but they still need to show that they are ready for the bright lights on Sundays. The potential of this secondary is sky-high and every Cowboys fan should be ecstatic to see what they bring to the table in the 2017-2018 NFL Season.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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