For the first time since 2009, the Dallas Cowboys secondary will not feature either JJ Wilcox or Barry Church at safety. After both players left Dallas for franchises in Florida, the back-end of the Cowboys defense is looking very barren.
It would appear to the naked eye that Dallas will almost have to draft a safety high in the 2017 NFL Draft. With just three safeties currently on their roster and guys like Washington's Budda Baker and UCONN's Obi Melifonwu who could be worthwhile in round one, the Cowboys' draft direction seems obvious.
The Cowboys don't want to ever feel forced to do anything on draft day, however. They like to bring in replacement-level players, like Damontre Moore and Nolan Carroll, to fill positions of need and allow themselves freedom in the early rounds.
Considering they haven't signed a safety to this point, Dallas might actually feel comfortable with their three current safeties.
Who is left at Safety for the Cowboys?
Let's play general manager for a minute, and evaluate the Cowboys current depth chart. As mentioned, they have three safeties, two of which have had serious game experience to this point.
Byron Jones, Free Safety, Third-Year
Let's get the obvious out of the way first.
A Richard Rodgers season-ending reception clouding the judgement of the masses should not let you doubt Byron Jones' ability. Currently, Jones is the best defensive back on the Cowboys, and this should not scare you.
After a successful rookie season in 2015 where he moved all around the defensive backfield, Jones made his home at safety in 2016 and looked comfortable doing so.
Byron Jones is one of the most reliable, consistent, and steady defensive backs the Cowboys have had in years. Of course, we would all like to see him get his hands on the ball more often, force more turnovers, and come away with some interceptions. Despite this lack of takeaways, Jones has still emerged as a consistent force in the Dallas secondary.
And he will be for a long time.
Jeff Heath, Strong Safety, Fifth-Year
A fan favorite, Jeff Heath has been a hard-working and under-appreciated player for the Cowboys since 2013. Though he started as a special-teamer and fringe player on the roster, Heath is now slated to be the starting strong safety in 2017.
While most of the Cowboys' defensive backs have not been able to turn the ball over, Heath seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Leading the team in interceptions in 2015, Heath continuously made big plays whenever his number was called.
The Cowboys signed Heath to a four-year extension last April, and at just 26 years old, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Cowboys entrust Jeff Heath with a starting role, and envision him as the long-time starter at strong safety.
This doesn't mean he won't have competition for that role, however.
Kavon Frazier, Safety, Second-Year
The sixth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, former Central Michigan stud Kavon Frazier will have a chance to prove he was the steal of that draft as soon as this season.
After the selection of Frazier, I reviewed his game tape and saw the he could be a direct successor of four-year starter Barry Church. Frazier does a great job of coming downhill and making tackles, and showed the ability to utilize angle tackling while in college.
At 6' 217 pounds, Frazier has the build and frame of a starting strong safety. He has great size and strength, and knows how to use it to his advantage. Considering Byron Jones' coverage skills on the back-end, Frazier could serve as the Kam Chancellor to Jones' Earl Thomas, playing in the box and making sure-tackles.
Of course neither Jones nor Frazier are on par with those Seattle safeties just yet, but the mold to build from is definitely there.
No matter how much I like both Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier, there is no question the Cowboys must address the safety position on draft day. It doesn't have to come in round one, but it does need to come at some point, most likely on the first two days.
It certainly would've been nice to keep a team captain and veteran leader in Barry Church around, but not at the price which the Jacksonville Jaguars raised.
Now, the Cowboys must play with who they've got, or add some more talent through the NFL Draft. Either way, there is going to be some inexperience in the back-end of this defense.
Hopefully, it won't come back to bite them.
Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary
The Dallas Cowboys best move of the offseason may very well be hiring Kris Richard as their new passing game coordinator. Despite not signing any free agents or drafting added talent for Richard to work with in the secondary, the Cowboys have plenty of reasons to feel great about their current starters - along with an intriguing class of UDFAs.
The prospects of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones, and Xavier Woods working with Richard to sharpen their skills with Seattle's "Legion of Boom" fabricator is as good as it gets. In a very short period of time, the cornerback position has turned into one of the hardest spots for fringe players to make the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Don't tell this to San Diego State's Kameron Kelly. Neither Richard or Kelly may be household names around the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman certainly is. Sherman also happens to be the player the Cowboys are looking for Kelly -- an undrafted free agent that didn't receive a single college offer from "power five" schools -- to emulate.
Given all that Sherman meant to Richard's defenses since being drafted by his Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, these feel like impossible expectations for Kelly to live up to.
The 6015 (6' 1 5/8") defender didn't even play the same position as Sherman until his final collegiate season, slowly making the transition from WR to DB at SDSU by starting as a Sophomore and Junior at safety.
Now just another player in a blue jersey with white numbers at The Star, Kelly is looking to earn the star on a team that may look to remain young, deep, and most importantly versatile in the secondary by keeping one or more UDFAs.
That is, if any of these long shot players deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster. Kelly already has an edge on this field, blessed with the length and daunting frame that allows Richard and the Cowboys to dream of featuring their own Richard Sherman.
"I think he’s trying to turn me into his next Richard Sherman or something". - Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Kameron Kelly
Kris Richard is going to coach everybody he comes across hard. He knows no other way. Kam Kelly is already embracing this, seeing the Cowboys vision for him and not backing down from the challenge.
Turn on the tape for this "diamond in the rough" prospect, and you'll see a player that carries this same competitive toughness onto the field.
Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... https://t.co/fJM4s16Eq1
Kelly joins Charvarius Ward, Donovan Olumba, and Tyree Robinson as the Cowboys class of UDFAs at both cornerback and safety. An athletic DB out of Oregon, Robinson has made a strong initial impression with several plays on the ball in drills so far.
However, it was Kam Kelly that set up an interception for Jameill Showers in yesterday's practice by getting in the face of rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.
Projecting anything that resembles a starting lineup for the Cowboys defense in the last week of May is silly. So too is realistically expecting Kelly, Ward, Olumba, or Robinson to ever crack this lineup.
The Cowboys could find themselves without enough practice snaps to go around for starting caliber players like Awuzie, Lewis, Jones, Anthony Brown, and even Marquez White. This does not bode well for Kam Kelly, who is only going to continue generating buzz from fans and the Dallas media.
For now, Kelly is getting his chance though. The Cowboys are ever-so-slowly getting back into form for 2018 - doing so with many familiar faces no longer on the roster. This team is going to look different on both sides of the ball come September, and Cowboys Nation can only hope it's for the better given the impressive amount of depth all over the field.
Kam Kelly won't back down from the depth the Cowboys have at CB, expecting to impress his new coach Kris Richard in the mold of three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.
WR Terrell Owens Featured As A Cowboy On Madden 2019 Cover
It's been a tumultuous few years for former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, to say the least. Based on his numbers Owens deserved to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but due to his off field "antics" and poor relationships with voters, Owens was kept out of the Hall of Fame until this year.
Now that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this Summer, Terrell Owens has earned another honor: cover athlete for EA Sports' upcoming Madden video game.
Madden has become a staple of football culture over the years, and being placed on the cover of their Hall of Fame edition is pretty special.
What came as a surprise, however, is that Terrell Owens is featured as a Dallas Cowboy on the cover of the game.
@terrellowens will be on the cover of #Madden19 Hall of Fame edition
Terrell Owens played on a multitude of teams during his NFL career, spending 3 seasons with the Cowboys from 2006-2008. People tend to forget how great the Tony Romo-to-Terrell Owens connection was in Dallas, especially during their 13-3 2007 season.
That year, Owens caught 81 balls for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also earned First Team All Pro honors during the same season.
This is the first time the Cowboys uniform has ever graced the cover of a Madden game, and the second time Terrell Owens will be on the cover of a professional football video game. The first time came as an Eagle on the cover of ESPN NFL 2K5, ironically just one year before Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was the cover athlete for Madden 2006.
Terrell Owens then announced the news himself on Twitter, by tweeting out the following video.
It's that time! I've made my decision to return to football. Madden 19 HOF #stayready https://t.co/pLL4lTAhD2
Terrell Owens is arguably the greatest (talent wise) receiver to ever play for the Cowboys, though he lacked the longevity to match any of the stat totals of guys like Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant. It's a shame the 2007 season ended the way it did, and that 2008 was such an utter disaster.
Those Cowboys teams were really talented, hence why they won 11 games and another division crown after Owens' departure in 2009.
QB Dak Prescott Is Taking Control Of The Dallas Cowboys
Heading into 2018 there is no question that the Dallas Cowboys are Dak Prescott's team. While some of the Cowboys fan base is skeptical of just how good Prescott is/can be, the franchise had placed all of their eggs in the Prescott-basket over the last two offseasons.
They've begun to build the "Dak-friendly offense," attempting to recreate the circumstances which surrounded him during his highly successful rookie season. By drafting offensive lineman Connor Williams, wide receiver Michael Gallup, and signing wide out Allen Hurns the Cowboys have made a conscious effort to help their young quarterback in his development.
But what do his fellow teammates think about him? Well, thus far during OTAs, the respect they have for Dak Prescott as a quarterback and a leader is clear.
Members of Prescott's wide receiver corps have been incredibly vocal about the respect they have for Dak Prescott, including two of their newest additions. Hurns told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News that Dak "runs things" around the locker room, and that the Cowboys will have no problems with leadership as long as Dak is at the helm.
Allen Hurns: "When I first got here, what surprised me a lot was Dak's leadership. He's only in his third year, but he's a very vocal guy. He runs things. I was very surprised by that. ... I don't think we'll have a problem with leadership.
Tavon Austin chimed in as well, telling Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News that while he expected Prescott to have "some juice" to him, meeting him in person allowed him to realize that his leadership is on a different level than even he expected.
I asked Cowboys WR Tavon Austin on his impressions of Dak Prescott before his arrival in Dallas: "I always knew he had some juice to him, some swag to him and when I finally get here and meet him it's definitely a whole different ballgame because it was to even another level.
It's not only members of the offense which are showing their respect for Dak Prescott's leadership, however. Team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence is noticing as well. This week Lawrence said that Dak is clearly taking control of the offense, and you can see it "every day in how he works."
DeMarcus Lawrence: "Dak is taking a lot of control over that offense. He's trying to take his game to the next level and be one of the elite quarterbacks in this league. You can see it every day in how he works.
There is an argument that can be made that the release of Dez Bryant and retirement of Jason Witten have allowed Dak Prescott to take that control. The veterans on offense from the Tony Romo-era have begun to disappear, and Prescott is now making the Dallas Cowboys "his team."
Of course, Prescott still has to do it on the field. While much of his first two seasons have been impressive, the final few weeks of 2017 featured some shaky play from Dak Prescott. But, the moves which were made this offseason combined with the full time return of running back Ezekiel Elliott should allow Prescott to take another step forward in 2018.
And if the Cowboys plan on being competitive as a team, they'll need Prescott to make those strides.
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