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.
Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson is getting ready for 2020. pic.twitter.com/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.