Back in 2017, the Dallas Cowboys were looking to upgrade at the safety position, an area they had been trying to get right since the days of Darren Woodson and Roy Williams. Instead of going for the popular picks, the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to select Safety Xavier Woods out of Louisiana Tech.
Woods, albeit at a school that doesn’t get much national attention, performed very well in college. In his four years he registered 272 tackles (20.5 for loss), 18 passes defended, 14 interceptions (all coming in his final three seasons), six forced fumbles, four sacks, and scored two touchdowns. Now, the next step would be to see if it could translate to the pro level.
Once his rookie campaign kicked off he was behind starters, Byron Jones and Jeff Heath. Even in a backup role, Woods showed flashes that he could be a valuable piece in the Cowboys secondary appearing in all 16 games, logging four starts. He would finish with 42 tackles, three passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble.
By 2018, the Cowboys hired Kris Richard to be the team’s Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach. This would benefit Woods because Richard would permanently put Jones at his most natural position, cornerback, leaving a need for a starter at free safety, which Woods was more than willing to provide. On a defensive unit that finished seventh overall for the season, Woods was one of the biggest reasons why. He would start all 14 games he played in racking up 56 tackles, nine passes defended, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. Now, the Cowboys firmly had their guy at free safety going forward, and he had another level to ascend to.
In 2019 the Cowboys were looking to build off of an excellent defensive season from the previous year. Although that didn’t exactly happen, there were a few bright spots, and Woods was one of them. He would start 15 games and logged 77 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. His best stretch of the season when it came to creating turnovers was during back to back NFC East games vs the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He would record both of his interceptions for the season and force a fumble as the Cowboys won both games and only allowed a total of 28 points.
As you can see, Woods has elevated his game every season he’s been in the NFL. The Cowboys are still trying to secure the strong safety spot long-term, however, they seemingly have their guy on the opposite side. Now, Woods is entering the final year of his rookie deal as he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. He’s set to make 2.14 million in 2020, which is about four times more than what he’s made in any other season.
Woods is proof that you don’t always have to pick the flashy car on the lot to get a reliable vehicle. He may not be Jamal Adams or Earl Thomas, but Woods is a very solid safety that you could build a secondary with. If his career continues the way it has so far, 2020 will see Woods take his game to another level.