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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
  • Ernest D. Hollins

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

    • Brian Martin

      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.

  • EverybodyTalks

    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

      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.

  • Hobbes49

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

    • Brian Martin

      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.

  • Albert Smith

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

    • Brian Martin

      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.

  • dallas1966

    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

      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.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: LB Kyle Wilber

Jess Haynie

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Kyle Wilber

While not one of the glamour players for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Kyle Wilber has been a steady and reliable asset for six seasons. He is set to be a free agent this offseason, and his return to Dallas is hard to project.

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Wilber has only started 16 games but been active for nearly all of them. Even when not having a major part on defense, Kyle has been standout special teams player almost every season.

Dallas saw Wilber's value in 2016 and gave him a two-year extension after his rookie contract expired. Now, though, Kyle turns 29 in April and it may be time to give his roster spot to a younger option with more upside.

It's impressive that Kyle Wilber's lasted this long with the Cowboys. He was drafted to play outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme at that time under Rob Ryan. When Monte Kiffin arrived in 2013 and the switch was made to the 4-3, Wilber was able to transition and stick around for five more seasons.

Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Wilber's depth value and special teams play earned him $3.25 million over the last two years. Would the Cowboys offer him a similar deal to stick around for another couple of seasons, or is it time to move on?

One factor helping Kyle is that even though Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys promoted from within. Keith O'Quinn has been here since before Wilber's time and knows what he brings to the table. He could push to keep one of his veteran leaders around.

Another consideration is that Dallas isn't flush with linebacker talent at the moment. Anthony Hitchens is a free agent, and if he doesn't return then that only leaves Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson as the known entities.

The Cowboys haven't allowed age to stop them from doing business with Justin Durant the last few seasons. He was 31 when the team signed him last year for veteran depth and insurance.

Could Dallas offer Kyle Wilber a similar deal, one or two years max at a minimal salary, to stick around? It's very possible, and especially if they let him see what free agency has to offer for about a month.

Even if 2017 was the end of his Cowboys run, Wilber has been a success as a fourth-round pick. He's been there when needed and been a leader on special teams. Earning a second contract with your original teams is always an accomplishment.

We'll have to wait and see if he gets a third.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: OT Byron Bell

Jess Haynie

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Byron Bell

Offensive tackle became a problem position for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. One guy who helped the situation was veteran backup Byron Bell. He is now a free agent, but Dallas could may be interested in bringing him back next year.

Bell was signed last March to provide depth and insurance on the offensive line. He had experience at both guard and center, starting almost every game since entering the NFL in 2011. Byron had missed all of 2016 with an ankle injury while a member of the Tennessee Titans.

After spending the first part of the year at the bottom of the depth chart, Bell was called into duty after a disastrous performance by Chaz Green in the team's Week 10 game against the Atlanta Falcons. With starting left tackle Tyron Smith injured, Green got the start and was obliterated by Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn to the tune of six sacks.

Byron got the start the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was clearly better than Green. He would remain the team's swing tackle the rest of the season and got another start in the meaningless Week 17 finale.

Byron Bell, Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys OT Byron Bell (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

Now Byron Bell is a 29-year-old free agent. With Chaz Green seemingly a failed experiment, Dallas has to figure out what to do about their depth behind Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. Could they be in the market to re-sign Bell?

Given his vast starting experience and position flexibility, Byron may have some other suitors in free agency. Offensive linemen age slower than other positions, so 29 isn't the same mark of death that a running back or corner might deal with.

A likely scenario here is that Dallas, assuming they'd like to have Bell back at all, would let him test free agency and then hopefully re-sign him later in the offseason to a minimal contract. Like last year, he would make sense for insurance at the position and especially if the team is going to part ways with Green.

What's more, Byron has increased value after a year in the Cowboys system. Also, in 2017 he was coming off an entirely missed season with the ankle injury. He's a more attractive asset in 2018.

That increased value could be seen by other teams, too. While Bell has had his ups and downs, he's accomplished enough that his name will be noticed among other free agents. A team with major needs on the offensive line might even consider him to compete for a starting job.

We don't know what the Cowboys' interest level is in bringing Byron Bell back, but they may have competition for his services. Given the role he filled to finish 2017, he could wind up an underrated free agent departure this offseason.


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Dallas Cowboys

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster

Sean Martin

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4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster 2

Maneuvering through the NFL offseason is a funny task for committed football fans, especially those of Cowboys Nation. Prior to the start of each new season bringing hope for all 32 clubs to reach the Super Bowl, every NFL roster enters a tumultuous state. Talent will be added through free agency and the Draft, while promising players will also be shuffled around through practice squads and training camp releases.

All of that to say, despite criticism for appearing stagnant so far this offseason on the heels of a 9-7 campaign, nobody knows what the Dallas Cowboys will actually look like in 2018. This is why I've decided to feature four under the radar players on the current Cowboys' roster below, all of which provide depth at positions of need.

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin

TE Blake Jarwin

An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, Blake Jarwin found his way onto the Cowboys' practice squad for 2017.

Jarwin showed enough promise early in his Cowboys career to earn fans on the coaching staff and throughout the organization, as he was promoted to the active roster in week eight. The Philadelphia Eagles were reportedly in position to snatch Jarwin from the Cowboys - who protected their versatile tight end.

The TE position remains unsettled for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond, with Jason Witten's production clearly declining. The Cowboys will also be on their third TE coach in three seasons this year, transitioning to Doug Nussmeier.

Nussmeier brings no previous experience as a TE coach specifically, meaning the team's overall philosophy on the position will still be determined heavily by Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Favoring tight ends that can block in the running game over those with higher upside as receiving threats, Jarwin is a name to keep in mind as a tenacious blocker that plays with sound technique.

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Lance Lenoir, QB Cooper Rush

WR Lance Lenoir

This past summer, I had the chance to interview Dallas Cowboys WR Lance Lenoir following his signing with the team out of Western Illinois. In that interview, Lenoir shows off the confidence he took into training camp as a receiver that would have a hard time making the team.

By the end of this long season, the Cowboys went from being perceived as deep and talented at WR to in need of new play makers on the outside.

Perhaps pressing a bit through the preseason, Lenoir did provide practice depth as a reliable pass catcher and punt returner, struggling on special teams in live action and ultimately spending the season on the practice squad.

The 2018 NFL Draft features a deep class of talented receivers, and the Cowboys would be wise to draft one with real potential that can push up the depth chart in a hurry. As far as current options on the roster to fill this position, WR Lance Lenoir can't be overlooked as an athletic target with NFL size and strength - entering his second season in Dallas.

DT Datone Jones

A mid-season acquisition from the Green Bay Packers, Datone Jones flashed as a defensive tackle in the limited opportunities he received. A five-year league veteran, Jones showed the ability to play with power and leverage at the 1T position - a spot the Cowboys are thin at right now.

Jones' versatility also suited him well, playing with impressive burst and disruptive ability as a pass-rushing 3T.

The addition of one more starting caliber DT could truly put this Dallas defensive front over the edge. With how much Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli believes in his DL rotation though, players like Datone Jones can prove immensely valuable.

DT Lewis Neal

Similarly to Jones, Lewis Neal is a fan-favorite defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Neal has absolutely earned the attention he's gotten, a UDFA out of LSU that plays the 1T position better than expected given his size.

The Cowboys have gotten by in recent years with smaller, more mobile players at this interior DT spot, with Neal being their latest post-draft steal to make an impact.

Lewis Neal appeared in seven games for the Cowboys this season, finding ways to help those around him by anchoring the line of scrimmage and disengaging with active hands and a quick base. This is a player that should be a valuable part of the team's depth on the defensive line.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The year-to-year nature of the NFL can be a wonderful thing (unfortunately, ask any Eagles fan right now). Part of this reality is understanding that none of the players listed above may actually stick with the Dallas Cowboys for 2018.

Next week's NFL Scouting Combine will kick "draft season" into full gear however, as the Cowboys will be working to better understand their teams needs and how they can be addressed.

Jarwin, Lenoir, Jones, and Neal all contributed or showed the promise to do so at positions the Cowboys must improve at this season - warranting a closer look through this dull portion of the offseason.

Tell us what you think about "4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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