It’s been an up and down year for many on the Dallas Cowboys defense. Without much of a training camp and no preseason, the Cowboys defense has had to install a new defensive scheme and philosophy on the fly. Though the first seven games of the year was some of the worst defensive football to ever grace an NFL field, the Cowboys defense has looked much better the last two weeks against their opponents from Pennsylvania.
For much of the defense the remainder of the 2020 season is an audition of sorts. These players will be putting tape together to either impress the Cowboys front office enough to bring them back in 2021 or to get another team to bite on them in free agency. In particular, several defenders i the secondary will be hitting free agency this offseason and have some work to do to prove they’re worth.
Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Jourdan Lewis are scheduled to be free agents this offseason and each of them has much to prove over the final seven games of the season.
There was some hope for Chidobe Awuzie that he’d be able to rediscover himself in a new defensive scheme and with a secondary coach that encouraged him to get his head around to play the football. Things hadn’t quite materialized on that front just yet prior to the injury that’s kept him out for most of the season. The hope is that Awuzie can return from injury soon, especially with the potential season-ending injury to rookie Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys need Awuzie’s talent and leadership in the secondary otherwise the play the defense has enjoyed the last couple of weeks will evaporate.
Xavier Woods has been a shell of himself in this new scheme. A player that once looked poised for a breakout has struggled in both run and pass defense in 2020. On a defense that needed some toughness and leadership in the secondary, Woods has failed to deliver on both fronts. Instead, getting outplayed at times by Donovan Wilson.
On Donovan Wilson, he won’t be a free agent this year, but he’s playing to prove he can be a starter in the NFL for 2021 and beyond with the Cowboys. His aggressiveness playing the run and the pass has been a breath of fresh air. He’s not afraid to come up to the line of scrimmage and lay a hit on a running back. Wilson is still growing at the position but he’s showing enough flashes to allow 2020 to be a long look as to whether or not he can be a starter for the Cowboys in 2021.
Jourdan Lewis is another player from the 2017 draft class that was meant to overhaul the Cowboys secondary. Lewis has been an incredibly frustrating player to evaluate. You love the aggression in the run game and his ability to be in the right place at the right time to create turnovers. However, Lewis struggles in coverage, which is a cornerback’s main responsibility. That’s the reason Anthony Brown has continually been able to get opportunities to play ahead of Lewis for much of their time on the team together.
Each of these three defensive backs still has a lot to prove in their respective NFL careers. And that all starts with how they finish the 2020 season. They’re playing for jobs, either on this team or the next and what they over the final seven games will go a long way to ensuring they have a gig next season; with the Dallas Cowboys or not.