#31 Byron Jones
Byron Philip Jones was born in New Britain, Connecticut on September 26, 1992. Jones is a versatile defensive back who has played both cornerback and safety in the NFL. He played collegiately at the University of Connecticut before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Byron Jones put together quite an impressive resume during his high school career and excelled in several different sports.
While attending St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut, Jones played basketball, football, and competed in track and field.
Jones was one of the state’s top performers in the 200-meter and 400-meter. At the 2010 NVL Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Jones earned first place in both the 200-meter and 400-meter with times of 22.13 seconds and 48.43 seconds, respectively.
It was on the football field where Byron really made his mark in high school. Jones was named to the Class MM All-State team by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and First Team All-Naugatuck Valley as a senior. He was also named team captain as a senior and helped his team advance to the MM state playoffs.
Coming out of high school, Byron Jones was considered a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and ended up accepting a football scholarship from the University of Connecticut.
Byron Jones made 37 starts in 43 career games at safety and cornerback for the Huskies during his collegiate career.
Jones red-shirted in 2010, but still was awarded the Special Teams Scout Player of the Week before the Syracuse game on November 20, 2010.
In the 2011 season, Byron Jones started a total of eight games and six of the final seven games of the season. He ended up sixth on the team in tackles with 51 and had a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown against USF, in which he earned the honors of being named BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
Jones started all 12 games at safety in 2012 and was the third leading tackler on the team with 88 tackles. Jones had one interception in the 2012 season and his best game came against Temple when he had a career-high 13 tackles.
In 2013, he started all 12 games at cornerback after converting from the safety position. Byron Jones ended up finishing fourth on the team with 60 tackles and had a team-high three interceptions. He was also named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
As a senior in 2014, Byron Jones started the first seven games of the season at cornerback before a season-ending shoulder injury cut his year short. Before his season was cut short, Jones recorded 24 tackles, two interceptions, and four pass breakups. One of his interceptions he returned 70 yards for a touchdown against USF.
2015 NFL Draft
Byron Jones took full advantage of his opportunity to compete at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. He set the world on fire by being a top performer in nearly every event, despite still recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final six games of his senior season.
Jones was a top performer in the vertical jump (44.5 inches), the 3 cone drill (6.78 seconds), 20 yard shuffle (3.94 seconds), and 60 yard shuffle (10.98 seconds); but it was the broad jump that really caught everyone’s attention.
Jones set the unofficial world record for the broad jump – or standing long jump – by jumping 12’3”.
It was Jones’ performance at the NFL Scouting Combine that caused a lot of so-called draft experts to have to go back and review his college game tape in order to get a better idea of exactly the type of football player he was. Was he just a workout wonder or was he truly a physically gifted athletic football player?
Byron Jones was arguably one of the most talked about draft prospects entering the 2015 NFL Draft after the show he put on at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Many draft analysts had Jones slotted anywhere from a late first-round draft pick to an early second round draft pick.
The Dallas Cowboys decided to use their 27th pick overall to draft the versatile defensive back out of the University of Connecticut, despite defensive end Randy Gregory still on the board, who a lot of people considered a top 10 talent.
Luckily for the Cowboys though, Gregory was still available on the second round and the organization didn’t hesitate to write his name on a draft card and make him a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Byron Jones’ versatility to play several different positions in the Cowboys secondary was something they simply couldn’t pass up and was ultimately the deciding factor to make him a member of the organization for years to come.
Byron Jones had a lot thrown at him his first year in the NFL, and he performed admirably for the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The attribute that convinced the Cowboys into drafting Jones in the first place was his versatility and that versatility was on full display throughout his rookie season.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had Jones play nearly every position in the secondary. Byron Jones played as an outside cornerback, in the slot, safety, and even a little dime linebacker when the Cowboys defense was in the nickel package.
The Cowboys couldn’t have been more pleased with Jones’ performance in his first year. He made 11 starts in the Cowboys secondary in 2015, but the majority of the starts came at the safety position (7). He was credited with 66 tackles and nine pass deflections, but failed to record an interception.
Jones did, however, have his rookie mistakes and his first game to start at cornerback for an injured Morris Claiborne against the Miami Dolphins provided evidence enough. He gave up a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills before he left the game with an ankle injury.
Byron Jones rebounded in his second start at cornerback against the Carolina Panthers when he made two key goal line plays to prevent a touchdown before the half ended.
Jones remained relatively healthy throughout his rookie season, but he did have a scary moment against the New York Jets when he suffered a dislocated knee while tackling wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Fortunately, he was able to pop it back in and finish the ball game, playing 71 total snaps.
The Dallas Cowboys are expecting big things from him in 2016 as their starting free safety.
The total value of Byron Jones’ rookie contract is $8,601,938. Jones will make an average of $2,150,485 per season and is fully guaranteed $6,993,947. This makes Jones the 63rd highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
Jones is entering the second year of his rookie contract and will have a cap hit of $1,954,986 in 2016, $2,345,983 in 2017, and $2,736,980 in 2018. The Dallas Cowboys will then have to decide if they want to offer him a long-term contract or pick up his fifth year option.
LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys
In Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. They also have some pretty solid backups in Sean Lee and Joe Thomas, but the depth behind those four is completely up in the air. That is excellent news for an undrafted LB like Justin Phillips.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy LB signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft. To go from being an Oklahoma State Cowboy to a Dallas Cowboy must've been a dream come true, especially for a kid from Pearland, Texas who rooted for America's Team growing up. The dream probably won't be complete though unless a roster spot comes with it.
Surprisingly, Justin Phillips has put himself into contention to earn one of those coveted roster spots. The way he has played in the first two preseason games has caught the attention of quite a few people, which should make it extremely difficult for the Cowboys coaching staff when it comes to making roster cut decisions. Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer and former Scout Bryan Broaddus agrees…
"Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with this initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him."
Here is the play/interception Broaddus is referring to:
The Dallas Cowboys have typically only carried six linebackers on their 53-man roster these past few years. With four spots already spoken for, Justin Phillips is doing his damnedest to lock down one of those final two up for grabs. That, of course, is easier said than done.
Phillips is likely competing with Justin March-Lillard, who led the team in tackles against the Los Angeles Rams last week and fellow undrafted rookie LB Luke Gifford. Gifford, of course, missed the game against the Rams with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 of the preseason against the 49ers. It was actually that injury that resulted in more playing time for Justin Phillips.
If you're doing the math here, that's three linebackers competing for two roster spots. March-Lillard probably has the upper hand right now over the two rookies, but I wouldn't say he's secured a job just yet. That leaves the door open for No. 44 (Phillips) and No. 57 (Gifford).
As much as I like Luke Gifford, and I do, I think the stars could be aligning for Justin Phillips to make it through roster cuts. He's playing really well right now, while all Gifford can do is watch from the sideline until he can get back on the field. Regardless though, it's a position battle worth keeping an eye on.
Do you think LB Justin Phillips has done enough to secure a roster spot?
How Kris Richard May Help CB Michael Jackson Make Cowboys Roster
Cornerback Michael Jackson, one of the Dallas Cowboys' 5th-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, has not been standing out so far in training camp or preseason. But despite the slow start, the influence of Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard could help keep Jackson on the 53-man roster this year.
While no team likes parting with their drafted rookies, it certainly happens. That's especially true for Day 3 players, even 5th rounders, and particularly when a team is as deep with talent right now as the 2019 Cowboys.
The cornerback position is one of Dallas' most loaded. They go four-deep with starting talent in Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, which leaves just one or two roster spots for the remaining prospects.
Michael Jackson is in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and the intriguing Donovan Olumba. Both were with the team last year; Goodwin was a special teams contributor and Olumba was a valuable developmental asset on the practice squad.
So far this preseason, we've seen Goodwin shining on special teams and Olumba making plays at cornerback. Jackson hasn't stood out, unless you count jokes about thin he looks on the field.
In contrast, fellow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson has been showing up at defensive end. Even if there were no suspension concerns with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory, Joe Jackson has made himself very difficult to cut.
But despite not having that same momentum or energy around him yet, Michael Jackson may still find his way onto the 53-man roster. And that may have something to do with his position coach.
Since arriving in Dallas during the 2018 offseason, Kris Richard has quickly gained prominence beyond just his official role as the Defensive Backs Coach. He was working as the defensive play-caller last year and is expected to take over fully in 2020, assuming Rod Marinelli retires and Richard doesn't leave for a head coaching opportunity.
When Dallas selected Michael Jackson in the last draft, Jackson became the first cornerback or safety drafted by the Cowboys since Richard arrived. Given that it happened this year, with Richard's influence clearly high on the defense, one would assume that Kris had a big say in the decision to draft Jackson.
No, Richard certainly can't veto any decision made by the Joneses, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, or even Marinelli when it comes to roster management. But if he has any bias towards Jackson as his first draft pick in Dallas, Kris may fight for the rookie more than someone else.
We're all human; agendas come into play. Kris Richard may be more passionate about seeing Michael Jackson succeeding for a variety of reasons. He may pound the table for the team to keep Jackson louder than anyone else in the room.
That doesn't necessarily mean keeping Jackson over some other cornerback, either. The argument could be to go long at CB at the expense of another position; maybe only keeing two quarterbacks or eight offensive linemen to free up a roster spot.
This is purely speculative, of course. For all we know, Richard could be the first one who loses faith and votes to let Jackson go.
But given the situation and all factors involved, it's more likely that Kris Richard will be invested in seeing Michael Jackson succeed and sticking with the Cowboys in 2019. Hopefully, it's in the best interest of the team overall.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
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