As I’m sure no one reading this needs to be reminded, this Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys game is rather meaningless. They have been eliminated from playoff contention and their opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, already have the NFC wrapped up, rendering this game a waste of time in the eyes of many.
But in an otherwise meaningless game, there is one area in which the Cowboys must continue to play hard and grow. An area which they focused an inordinate amount of resources on during the 2017 offseason, and an area which has seemingly improved week by week this year. That area is their young secondary, specifically the three rookie defensive backs — Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods.
When Dallas allowed their veteran defensive backs to walk in free agency last offseason, they received a ton of criticism from fans and media alike. People wondered how they would replace such a large chunk of the snaps they’d lost with rookies, specifically ones not taken in the first round.
I, like many of Cowboys bloggers on these inter-webs, asserted the secondary would turn out fine. With a little time, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis would become better corners than Dallas had seen in quite some time. So far so good for those two players, who continue to improve each week.
- Awuzie looks like he’ll be a star, stripping Michael Crabtree one play and stoning Marshawn Lynch at the line of scrimmage the next.
- Lewis appears to have found a home on the outside, despite his early-season struggles.
- Xavier Woods has been moved all over the defensive backfield, showcasing his special versatility in the secondary.
- And even Anthony Brown has been better lately with less playing time on the boundary, as he has been allowed to focus his efforts in the slot.
Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ passing game doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of many teams. Still, Nelson Agholor is probably this year’s most improved wide out, and Alshon Jeffery remains a solid WR1 for Philadelphia.
As they try to piece together their offense without Wentz, I expect to see quarterback Nick Foles and the regular weapons a bit longer than we typically would under normal circumstances. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but all reports out of Philly indicate Foles expects to play a lot on Sunday afternoon. This means Dallas’ young secondary will have yet another test to finish out the season, and another opportunity for growth as a unit moving into 2018.
Whether or not they take another step forward next season will be an important factor in determining how good the Cowboys can be, but this young group shouldn’t waste an opportunity for improvement this Sunday, even if the game is meaningless.