One of the most surprising roster moves the Dallas Cowboys made yesterday was waiving rookie cornerback Marquez White, a move that became possible after the team traded for experienced CB Bene Benwikere prior to the cut down deadline.
When I originally scouted Marquez White right here at Inside The Star, I thought he could quickly prove to be a fifth round steal thanks to his size and scheme fit for Rod Marinelli. Instead, with Jourdan Lewis still sidelined with his hamstring injury, the Cowboys felt better about Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, and Bene Benwikere being their five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster.
Benwikere has bounced around plenty of teams after being cut by the Carolina Panthers in 2016, where I went back to his tape to scout what the Cowboys added to their secondary in this newest edition of Sean's Scout.
CB Ben Benwikere: Strengths
Like White, Bene Benwikere was a fifth round draft pick back in the 2014 Draft. Selected by the Carolina Panthers out of San Jose State, Benwikere was thought of highly by the organization as they traded up to take him.
Despite moving on from Benwikere after an infamous performance by the Panthers defense at the Falcons in week four of this season – where they allowed over 500 yards passing – there is plenty to like on the tape from this 5110, 195 pound defensive back.
The first thing that jumped out when studying Benwikere was his quick twitch movement ability and balance. This is an incredibly active player that can diagnose routes developing in front of him with adequate break on the ball.
As a sideline to sideline defender, Benwikere makes up for lack of pure, straight-line speed with the controllable burst to use the sideline to his advantage and funnel throws into coverage. His raw measurements may not be ideal for the NFL at cornerback, but the traits are there for Benwikere – as seen in the interception above as he finds a way to finish the play with his length, fluid athleticism, and balance in zone coverage.
It is this zone coverage that Benwikere was mostly asked to play in Carolina, and it is something we can expect to see more of from Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli in 2017.
While his technique and coverage assignments made it hard to solely evaluate Benwikere without the talent around him, his ability to create leverage in coverage and make up for any lapses with incredible change of direction skills is something the Cowboys can look forward to adding.
CB Bene Benwikere: Weaknesses
As mentioned, Benwikere is an incredibly active player with his foot speed. This naturally causes him to overrun some plays – particularly in run defense as Bene was asked to play in the box as a Nickel defensive back quite often.
I did see Benwikere meet opposing running backs in the hole with some stopping power on a few occasions, but his angles often left a lot to be desired when filling against the run.
Assuming for a second the Cowboys want to use Benwikere as a boundary cornerback with slot experience, relying on Orlando Scandrick inside, they are getting a player that has little experience getting physical with wide receivers and jamming their route.
Playing through any contact at all is a concern for Benwikere, as he'll get caught with his weight and momentum going backwards too often. This not only allows blockers to control Benwikere, but receivers entering his zone can easily undercut him and create separation that Bene will struggle to close up with the ball in the air.
There just aren't many plays where Bene Benwikere is being a disruptive player, something the Cowboys are looking for more of in their defensive backs.
CB Bene Benwikere: Summary
Since the moment he was drafted, everyone has realized that the Cowboys will need big things out of their second round pick Chidobe Awuzie out of Colorado. With the cut down day acquisition of Bene Benwikere, who has spent time with the Dolphins, Packers, and Bengals since his release by the Panthers in 2016, this remains the truth as Awuzie remains one of this team's top four cornerbacks.
As a depth piece to provide comfort and experience at the fifth cornerback position, it doesn't get much better than Bene Benwikere though.
A player that should fit this Dallas scheme well enough to contribute if called upon and not allow big plays, with the traits to flash around the ball occasionally, Bene Benwikere is a quality addition to a still-uncertain Cowboys secondary.