Since being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cornerback Jourdan Lewis has been one of the more underrated players, specifically by his own team, on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Though many have argued that Lewis might be one of the best cover players the Cowboys have, he’s constantly had to fight for opportunities because of how he was viewed by the recently departed defensive coaching staff; namely Kris Richard.
Richard, like a lot of coaches, has a prototype or philosophy for the position they coach. For the former defensive backs coach, he preferred to have taller cornerbacks, the taller the better, in order to play his cover three scheme in the secondary. The idea being that as corners played bump and run in cover 3 or man, that the taller corners would be more difficult to throw over. For the most part, it’s a philosophy that served Dallas well though they didn’t create many turnovers. However, that same philosophy kept one of their playmakers on the sideline.
Coming out of Michigan, Lewis had two interceptions per season for the Wolverines. In his junior year in 2016, he recorded 20 pass deflections. 20! Lewis knows how to get his hands on the ball. That playmaking ability has translated to the NFL as well.
Despite playing limited snaps in his first three seasons in the NFL, he’s recorded four interceptions, 17 pass deflections, and had four sacks (all in 2019). He’s a player that knows how to make plays on the football and proved to be an excellent pass rusher last season. Per Pro Football Reference, Lewis only allowed a passer rating of 85.6 in 2018 and 86.8 in 2019 in coverage. That may not be a great number, however, for a player who often had to come in to games after sitting a while, that’s encouraging.
Heading into the final year of his contract, Jourdan Lewis may be in for an increased role under the new defensive coaching regime.
Now with Richard and Marinelli out and new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan installed, Lewis may find an opportunity for increased playing time. In Nolan’s time as a defensive coordinator or head coach, he’s had cornerbacks of a wide variety of sizes. What’s mattered more than size, is playmaking ability and creating turnovers.
Nolan’s desire to have cornerbacks who can create turnovers is one of the reasons the Cowboys may allow Byron Jones to walk in free agency this offseason and is why Jourdan Lewis will likely see a more significant role in 2020.
If Byron Jones and fellow free agent and cornerback Anthony Brown both depart in free agency, the Cowboys will likely be starting Lewis and fellow 2017 draft pick Chidobe Awuzie at cornerback in 2020. Even if the Cowboys retain Jones or Brown, Lewis is looking at an opportunity to compete for one of the starting cornerback spots on the outside despite being pidgeon-holed as a slot corner under the previous defensive staff.
With Lewis heading into a contract year, the timing is perfect for him. An increased opportunity this offseason could allow him to prove his value to the Dallas Cowboys or to potential suitors in the 2021 free agency if everything goes according to plan. However, regardless of his contract status, you know that Lewis is going to make the most of his opportunities when he does see the field. His talent, swagger, and penchant for playmaking are traits that Mike Nolan and new Cornerbacks coach Al Harris are going to absolutely love.
The only player on the Cowboys roster that might benefit more from the coaching change than Jourdan Lewis is Quarterback Dak Prescott and that’s because of Mike McCarthy’s proven track record with quarterbacks. Lewis benefits simply from a clean slate and an open mind from his new defensive coaches.
If the Dallas Cowboys want turnovers, then they need to get Jourdan Lewis on the field in 2020. Whether they view him as a potential starter or not remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure, it won’t take long to Lewis answers that question for them.