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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 2
Byron Jones, #31

#31 Byron Jones

Height: 6-1 Weight: 199 Age: 23
Position: Free Safety College: University of Connecticut
Exp: 1 Years

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.

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 2

High School

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 4Byron 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.

College/NCAA

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron JonesByron 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

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 1Byron 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.

NFL Career

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 5Byron 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.

Contract Status

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.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

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