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

Sean Martin

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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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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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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!



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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7 Comments
  • Michael White

    He should have always been a cb…the db to safety back to db experiment was horrible and i never liked the move..sometimes I think they take this flex position philosophy too far…

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Or not far enough sometimes. Thank you for reading and commenting, Michael!

  • oneputter

    wasted draft pick…..there were much better players to be had.

    i’ve have never seen him as a good cover corner or safety…..time to move on.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      I think he’s about to surprise you as a really good cover corner. Give 31 a chance.

      • oneputter

        he’s been given 3 yrs and has yet to produce, he doesn’t look like he is getting any better. he still takes bad angles, is afraid to make contact, and consistently gets beat. again as a #1 pick, he should have been a much better performer by now.

  • Roger Johnson

    Byron Jones is a bust! No one even heard of him until the combine. It wss a bad pick….plain and simple. I thought we should’ve drafted Eddie Kendricks with that pick. For everyone who thinks that a new secondary coacj/position is going to make a difference….it’s blind faith. Don’t take my word for it. Look at 3 years of game tape. Cut bait and move on! He’s a BUST! You would think that they learned from Morris Claiborne.

  • EverybodyTalks

    The only busts were the coaches who couldn’t figure out for what to do with Byron Jones for 3 YEARS. They draft the fastest defensive player in the NFL, who was a CB @ UCONN…HELLO. They move him all over the backfield from his rookie year on. Look at our current rookie DBs and everyone is fine with them even though both missed several games last year. Byron has missed 4 games in 3 years. No, this has been a total misstep by the coaches and they better give this guy his 5th year option. Byron Jones was on NFL Total Access and was very positive about moving to CB. He also stated that he played where the coaches asked him to play. Finally, we have a coach in Kris Richard, who I believe will be able to bring out and utilize Byron’s skill set.
    PS: If they let Mo Claiborne hang around for 5 years, they sure as hell should let Byron have the same opportunity.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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