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What’s Next for Cowboys Safety Donovan Wilson?

It’s an interesting situation the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in. They just signed a safety in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and yet safety still remains a long-term priority, at least from analysts who cover the team. However, is it possible that the Cowboys have had their long-term answer at safety on the roster all along, but the previous regime refused to see what it had?

Yes, we’re talking about Donovan Wilson.

You may remember Donovan Wilson from the 2019 preseason where he flashed an instinct for taking the ball away to the tune of three interceptions in four games. Wilson displayed excellent hands and timing when breaking on the football, providing a lot of optimism for his future with the team. What transpired though, is what typically went down under Jason Garrett coached teams. Rookies with promise are kept on the sidelines for veterans who are generally considered depth options.

Sure, they saw him in training camp every day and in practice throughout the season, but Donovan Wilson only logging 16 defensive snaps in a season where Jeff Heath missed three games is inexcusable. There were more than 300 defensive snaps available that Jeff Heath didn’t play. Giving only 16 to a player who made did what you’ve been begging your defense to do for years, take the ball away, is part of the reason it was time to move on from this coaching staff.

Wilson would have never replaced Jeff Heath outright because he was a trusted veteran from the previous regime. However, seeing Darian Thompson get the nod over Wilson added to the frustration from last season.

Yet, with Clinton-Dix on board, we find ourselves in a familiar situation. A veteran player trusted by the head coach is going to get every opportunity to be the starter opposite Xavier Woods at safety and Wilson finds himself needing to supplant a veteran with a ton of experience in order to display his soft hands and interception prowess.

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson is getting ready for 2020. https://t.co/H9LKaqhLHi

Getting drafted in the sixth round doesn’t guarantee you anything. You’re certainly not guaranteed a starting spot after playing just 16 snaps in your rookie season. But it’s important to note that not all of that is on him.

In Jason Garrett’s tenure, the only time rookies to start right away without an injury forcing them into the lineup were the offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott. As much as I argued for him as a coach, this was always one of my biggest frustrations. His risk-averse nature often left rookies who might have been the better player sitting on the sideline vying for table scrap snap counts.

Donovan Wilson is no stranger to new Defensive Backs Coach Maurice Linguist from their time at Texas A&M. Even if Linguist worked primarily with the cornerbacks during their time in Aggieland together, he got to see Wilson up close.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s contract isn’t such that the Cowboys are forced to play him. The Cowboys would be wise to allow Clinton-Dix and Wilson to battle it out in training camp if there even is a training camp this year. Let them both get snaps with the first-team defense and see which one rises to the occasion.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive coaches are coming in with a mandate to create a defense that creates turnovers. Donovan Wilson showed in his short stint during the preseason in 2019 that he’s a player that can do just that. It’s time to see what he can do against advanced competition.

What do you think?

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John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. Amen. I giggled a little when heath got hurt, not because he was hurt but was gonna force them to finally use donovan Wilson and see if his preseason picks were just a fluke but nope. In came Darian Thompson. I was furious.
    About as mad as Jourdan Lewis getting black balled by Richard’s “protype” physique for a DB. It was hogwash to keep letting Anthony brown start in place of him because he wasn’t as tall. But then brown was hurt. I hope Lewis has a great year but not too great he wants a pile of money either since it’s his last year on contract.

    • Yeah, it was really odd. Obviously we’re not privy to what happens in the locker room or most practices, but it was weird how little desire they had to play Wilson or Lewis.

  2. If I’m the Cowboys I’m looking to get better at every position possible, so if a Safety is the best player available in the draft at 17 then take it, but I honestly think they need a SS more than a another FS.

    I would also look to address the biggest area of need at the moment and that’s Edge/DE opposite of Tank or Center. Maybe trade up to get Chase Young or trade up in the Second to get Biadasz or Ruiz.

    • I’m a buckeye fan and would like nothing better than to get chase young. But we’re talking giving up the farm to move up to get him. I’d almost rather trade dak and a pick to get Joe burrow. He shoulda started over jt barrett when he was a sophomore at Ohio state. Lol

    • I hear what you’re saying but I just don’t see any of the safeties in round one as the good value for pick 17. I’d honestly rather reach for a cornerback than draft Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney.

    • Thank you, Victor. I appreciate the words.

      Safety to me is one of those positions that if a player they loved fell to them and they didn’t really like what else was available, go for it, take your safety. Otherwise, I’d continue to focus on the defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver.

  3. I could see his talent and I’m sure the coaches saw it. Apparently Garrett was to afraid of change. And ultimately got himself fired. All that talent wasted because of a stubborn coach set in his 90’s ways. I say we take a WR that will fall to us. So many of them ready to make the offense go. Moore is an amazing offensive mind. All you need to do is look at Daks numbers and it tells the story. Go defense the rest of the draft and let them loose. Because this is a talented roster that Garrett held back for years.

    • I was a big Jason Garrett fan heading into 2019 but his unwillingness to take risks or stay aggressive in important road games is what cost them the season. It was time to move on.

  4. I agree…. I would like to see Donovan Wilson get a chance to show what he has at SS!! He showed he was a ball hawk in preseason when he got more interceptions in 4 games than any of the other safeties did in 16 games!!

  5. FINALLY…. a little voice of reason in an ocean of misinformation. Rookies who display skills in OTAs, training camp and pre-season get “benched” in favor of veterans so we never know if said rookies are an upgrade. Thanks, john for keeping it real.

    • I do what I can. It was one of the more unfortunate realities of the Jason Garrett. Unwilling to take a chance on a guy to see if he can hold up and develop. But that’s what happens when you live life risk-averse and allow every game to be a one possession game.

  6. I think we should go corner back first round . Maybe what board look like 2nd round wide out or tight end . 3rd round O line or D line . After that best available football player . Know project players this draft Please Jerry …

  7. He’s an excellent player who I’d love to see as a starter, more like a Strong Safety than a Free Safety. Then during the draft we can try to get Delpit or McKinney. Xavier Woods is FA next year and although I like him, we need a big improvement in the FS position, both McKinney and Delpit would be perfect in this role IMO.

  8. I’m pretty sure if Chris Richard really wanted the young man to play he would of gotten more snaps than that.

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