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Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys’ Retooled Secondary

Byron Jones has started 43 games since 2015 for the Dallas Cowboys, yet the team remains undecided on where that year’s first-round pick is best suited to play. Jones began his career at CB before transitioning to safety, flashing plenty of potential early in his Cowboys career as an athletic stud out of UCONN.

Through plenty of highs and lows on the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys’ problems under DC Rod Marinelli seem to always find a way back to Jones – a player that’s been far from the problem in Dallas.

Remaining at safety in 2016, the Cowboys rebuilt their depth chart at cornerback by drafting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in 2017. Now, under new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard, it appears that Byron Jones is set to join both Awuzie and Lewis as a starting CB once again.

I went back to Jones’ tape from the 2015 season to evaluate his play as a CB, and was pleasantly surprised by the traits he showed – as well as the potential he’ll have to finally “break out” moving forward at this position.

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Putting Byron Jones closer to the line of scrimmage has yielded his best results for the Cowboys’ defense. To take this a step further, I saw a much more controlled and engaged player in Jones when he was lined up at CB.

Jones has always played with outstanding short-range burst as well as long speed. The further he is lined up from the point of attack, the more time opposing players have to build up speed in attacking Jones, who will struggle to keep his balance and change directions fluidly.

Cornerback is the best position for Byron Jones to play to these strengths, given a clear assignment in man coverage on every snap.

Coming over from Seattle, Kris Richard made a name for himself as a top defensive coach in the NFL by building the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom”. This fearsome secondary featured some of the longest and most athletic CBs in the league, which Jones could become as soon as 2018.

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Byron was inconsistent with his jam placement at CB in 2015, but his overall length still allowed him to stay on top of routes and open his hips to turn and run. A full offseason focused on refining his game at cornerback and learning technique from Richard come training camp will only allow Jones to dominate even further using his physical attributes.

The Cowboys will create a need at safety with Jones moving down to the second level, and it was generally poor help from the team’s safeties in 2015 that led to Jones giving up some yards in coverage.

Even when receivers were able to catch Jones flat-footed and create separation, his recovery ability and lateral speed to still contend at the catch point was impressive.

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Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is a player that covers a ton of ground with calculated strides as a vertical defender. Even on film, you could tell the faster processing speed at CB helped Jones – who excelled at lining up across from a receiver and making his life difficult. As a safety asked to play everywhere, Jones was weighed down by reacting to plays in front of him, failing to make as many plays on the ball because of this.

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Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Byron Jones may very well find himself tested early and often next season as a boundary cornerback for Dallas. Passes will be complete in front of Jones, but in a scheme that plays to limit big plays and force methodical scoring drives, an outside CB pairing of Jones and Awuzie should be just fine.

Throw in Jourdan Lewis potentially shifting to Nickel CB, with Anthony Brown a better inside player as well, and the Cowboys have the future of their secondary figured out. With this cast of cornerbacks, I believe Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier could handle the job at safety – although this is a position the Cowboys would be wise to invest a high draft pick into.

Byron Jones, Vikings
Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Jones’ transition to CB may be coming at the perfect time, as the Cowboys were already feeling good about their future at the position thanks to the draft capital allocated in the secondary a year ago. Knowing that the “final piece” to this revamp is already on the roster allows the Cowboys to address other positions – while expecting their passing defense to be an absolute force to reckon with this season.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys’ Retooled Secondary” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

What do you think?

Sean Martin

Written by Sean Martin

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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