Maurice Canady signed with the Dallas Cowboys last March. His time in Dallas would have to wait to officially get underway though as he decided to opt-out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The former Virginia Cavalier has returned to the field and he's making every snap count during training camp.
Canady has been like a shadow on receivers. Not only is he getting pass breakups but he's also making interceptions, and you can't beat creating turnovers as a defender. However, while many are surprised by how well Canady has looked in camp and during the preseason, he says it shouldn't surprise anyone.
“It's nothing new,” Canady said. “It's all about the opportunity that you get for your time slot. It's the NFL. There's always new people coming in. There's always somebody getting hurt. When your number's called, you just have to make sure you capitalize.”
Speaking of people getting hurt, veteran Jourdan Lewis went down with an injury early in camp, and it's allowed Canady to get a lot of work at nickel cornerback. The extra reps have paid off as now Canady is making a push for significant playing time in 2021.
His performance isn't going unnoticed by the coaching staff. Joe Whitt Jr was reunited with Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn (coached together with the Atlanta Falcons) in January when he was brought on to be the Cowboys Secondary Coach and Pass Game Coordinator. Last week, he raved about how Canady has flourished in the nickel cornerback spot.
“I think he's done an excellent job in there at the nickel position,” Whitt said. “He's touched more passes than anybody in the secondary, anybody on defense. I think both of those guys together (Canady and Lewis) are causing us to say, we need to find a package where both of them are on the field at the same time.
“To be honest with you, I didn't know that he would be at the level where he is. He's playing fast, he's playing with intent, he's downhill, playing with purpose, and it just needs to continue. He can't get satisfied with where he is, and none of us can. But just been pleased with him.”
Whitt isn't the only member of the staff that recognizes what Canady brings to the table. Head Coach Mike McCarthy has been impressed with the veteran as well, especially the ball skills he possesses which he didn't get a chance to see in 2020.
“I didn't know his ball skills were this good,” McCarthy said. “He's a heck of a player, we obviously we loved him when we signed him – didn't have him because of the pandemic – but my goodness, just the way he tracks the football, I've been so impressed with him. He's having an excellent camp. His ball skills were much better than I was aware of.”
Those words from McCarthy aren't that surprising when you analyze Canady's time in the NFL. Although he was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, Canady hasn't been on the field that much. Hamstring, knee, and thigh injuries only allowed him to play in 19 games in his first three seasons.
He got his best work in 2019 when he set career highs in games played (13), snaps (398), and total tackles (46) while playing for the Ravens and New York Jets. However, that's still only 32 games that Canady has suited up for so being that he hasn't been able to put a lot on film his excellent camp has turned a lot of heads.
Canady has only been on the defensive side of the ball since his college days. His background of playing offense has helped him be an effective cornerback.
“I never played defense until I got to college,” Canady said. “I've always been an offensive player, so from my perspective, my ball skills, I think I'm a receiver.”
Having an entire season off was beneficial for Canady. Without the rigors of an NFL season, it worked wonders for his body as he kept up his training. Also, he focused on the mental aspect of the game by making reading a part of his routine more so than he did in years past.
“High IQ will get you a long way in the NFL regardless of your position,” Canady said. “I know some vets out there who can barely run, but they're still out there making plays.”
It's been a long time coming for Canady to show what he can do. He's taking advantage of all of his chances and it could lead to seeing him on the field more this season than anyone would have thought before the offseason program started months ago.