The hope of getting a major upgrade at safety began since free agency, when the Dallas Cowboys were expected to make a serious run for Earl Thomas. That changed when the 30-year old All-Pro signed a huge deal with the Baltimore Ravens and the rest of the top free agents at the position went to other teams. Finally, the Cowboys added veteran George Iloka to the team. Not a top free agent, but a guy that will help a lot nonetheless. Then came the NFL Draft, when surely, we thought, the Cowboys would address what seemed to be the most desperate need and draft a safety in the second or maybe even third round. It wasn’t until pick 213th in the sixth round that the front office selected a safety in Donovan Wilson, from Texas A&M.
With OTAs at full speed, it would be a surprise if the Cowboys upgrade the position by signing a free agent such as Eric Berry or trade for one. At this point, it all points toward Xavier Woods starting alongside either Jeff Heath or George Iloka.
An upgrade would definitely be ideal. Heath is an average safety in the NFL and Iloka should be a reliable veteran who will surely compete for the starting role. On the other side will be Xavier Woods, who’s had a very promising start to his career so far. He makes smart decisions on the field and has shown off a great range when in coverage. As far as Woods is concerned, the Cowboys will have a talented quality starter with a ton of upside.
It’s the other spot that has fans worried. Despite Heath’s play-making ability that makes him shine from time to time, he’s highly inconsistent. And while Iloka might be an upgrade over him, we still don’t know how much he can bring to the table after spending the 2018 season in the Minnesota Viking’s bench.
But should we really be concerned about the Cowboys’ safety position? After all, this defense shined last season with Jeff Heath lining up as the starter. Now, don’t get me wrong. The team could use an upgrade and there’s a considerable weakness at the position. However, their defense might be strong enough to shine despite of it.
After all, that’s what happened last year. At times it hurt to have said weakness, but the rest of the defense made up for it. Byron Jones led the cornerback group and held opposing receivers to poor performances. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch dominated in their first year together and the defensive line consistently won in the trenches with DeMarcus Lawrence, Antwaun Woods, Randy Gregory among others.
Heading into 2019, the linebacker duo will have more experience, the defensive line will be improved with second round pick Trysten Hill and other key free agent additions. Not to mention a group of defensive backs that will have spent another offseason with Kris Richard as their position coach. And while a major upgrade at safety didn’t happen, at the very least, the Cowboys did a nice job of improving the position’s depth.
The Cowboys do have a weakness at safety, but we might be surprised to see how the defense operates once the season begins. This was one of the best units in the league last year, and they have what it takes to improve their level in 2019.