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Will Chidobe Awuzie’s Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?

Brian Martin

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Word surfaced on Monday that the Dallas Cowboys 2017 second-round draft pick Chidobe Awuzie is expected to practice this week and possibly play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. This is great news considering the rookie defensive back has missed the last five out of six games, but will his return benefit the Cowboys defense?

It's no secret Chidobe Awuzie has been dealing with a hamstring injury this season and it has caused him to miss games. Cowboys Nation knows all too well how the dreaded h-word tends to strike Cowboys players and how it always seems to linger throughout the season. This has definitely been the case for Awuzie so far, but if healthy he could possibly make an immediate impact.

The Dallas Cowboys spent a second-round pick on him in the 2017 NFL Draft for a reason. Chidobe Awuzie was expected to come in and contribute right away after the Cowboys pretty much cleaned house in their secondary. Injuries have unfortunately kept that from happening, but the wait might finally be over. The defense could certainly use his unique skill set.

You may have forgotten, but Chidobe Awuzie is a versatile defensive back who the Cowboys were really looking forward to inserting into their secondary. They obviously had a plan to use that versatility to their advantage and to utilize his unique skill set much like his college coaching staff did during his time at Colorado.

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

While at Colorado, Awuzie played nearly every position in the secondary. Not only did he play nearly every position, but he excelled, especially as a blitzer. His size, speed, and footwork would allow him to play anywhere in the Cowboys secondary as well. Whether it is at safety or cornerback, it doesn't really matter. He would likely be an immediate upgrade.

Now, with the way the Dallas Cowboys defense has continued to improve week after week, I don't really know where Awuzie fits in right now. I kind of doubt the Cowboys coaching staff wants to make any changes with the way the defense is performing right now, but it's good to have Chidobe in their back pocket.

Injuries have already hit the cornerback position pretty hard this season. In fact, Anthony Brown is the only CB who contributes on a regular basis not to sustain an injury. Let's just hope that doesn't change anytime soon (knock on wood). So, it's good to have a player as talented as Chidobe in the fold once again.

I personally wouldn't be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys had a specific role in mind for Chidobe Awuzie when he returns to the field. His versatility and athleticism could allow Rod Marinelli to really get creative with coverages, and I believe that will benefit the entire Cowboys defense. But, what that role may be is still a mystery…

Regardless of what kind of defensive role #33 has going forward, it is definitely great news to have back in the mix of things for the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Chidobe Awuzie's return will benefit the defense?



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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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ernest D. Hollins

    November 8, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    If they use him wisely. Only in certain packages right now. Hope he stays healthy.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 8, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      I completely agree with you Ernest. They need to work him back slowly and probably only in certain situations. I think they have a specific role in mind for him and hopefully his hamstring injuries are behind him. I think he can be a difference maker if he’s able to stay healthy.

  2. EverybodyTalks

    November 8, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    The bottom line for me… “You can never have too many good Dbs “ It will be good to see him out on the field and I hope he can stay healthy for the rest of the season.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 9, 2017 at 9:05 am

      You’re absolutely right. Having him back in the mix is a good thing and if he can stay healthy, he may be able to earn a larger role. I wouldn’t mind seeing him challenge Anthony Brown for the starting gig. Brown has really been struggling this year.

  3. Hobbes49

    November 9, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Absolutely helps. The more talented DB’s, the better. More competition as well, which is a good thing.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 9, 2017 at 10:55 am

      I absolutely agree. I think Awuzie would probably be starting if not for the hamstring injuries. I’m really looking forward to getting him back on the field.

  4. Albert Smith

    November 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    I can’t wait to see White next year as well.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 9, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      He is definitely intriguing. I hope he’s able to develop on the Cowboys PS and he’s ready to come in and contribute next year or even this year if needed.

  5. dallas1966

    November 10, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Brian, I think Cheetos, has been healthy, all the time. THE delay, which co-inside with Zeke serving his suspension, is no accident. I believe you hit the head of the nail, when discussed Cheetos , mysterious role, he is about unleash, during these next six games, will put this Cowboys defense on another level. I think Coach Marinelli, has a special role, that only Cheetos, skill set, can pull of, kinda like Troy Polomalu, did for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in his hey day, AND John Lynch, WITH Tampa Bay, during its Super Bowl run.

    The coverage will be much tighter, causing the opposition quarterback to hold the ball longer, which will play in Coach Marinelli scheme of things.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

      I don’t think Awuzie has been healthy hardly at all this season. I think if he would have been, he would likely be starting right now in place of a struggling Anthony Brown. But, I do believe Marinelli has a specific role in mind for him. And yes, I do believe he will make the Cowboys secondary better.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.



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Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams

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Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.



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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

John Williams

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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.

You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.

Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.

Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.

Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants

The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.

For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.

We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.

Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.

Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.

Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.

In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.

He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. Spotrac.com estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.

Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.

Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.

Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that Spotrac.com is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.



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