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Dallas Cowboys Roster 2015: Secondary Finally In Position To Succeed?

The Dallas Cowboys used their first pick at a position that needed help most; cornerback. Now the Cowboys look to build on their rising efforts from the end of 2014.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The chicken or the egg theory is always prevalent in these matters of pass rush and secondary. Last season, the Cowboys managed only 28 sacks, which made them cellar-dwellers in the pressure category. To their credit, the front office didn't ignore this statistic, in fact it was their main focus through this still-young offseason. Dallas did everything from signing the premier 4-3 pass rusher in Greg Hardy, to fortifying the position by taking arguably this year's best 4-3 end in the draft, Randy Gregory. The Cowboys also added Ryan Russell in the fifth round, and look to have Ben Gardner, Chris Whaley, and Ken Bishop waiting in the wings.

All of this work has to help this secondary out you would think, right? By selecting cornerback Byron Jones, the Cowboys are hoping they can finally breathe in coverage and allow their corners to press. Rod Marinelli has a different philosophy than his predecessor Monte Kiffin. Though they run the same scheme, Marinelli believes that in today's NFL, playing press is a better way to defend the pass. The corners on this team would agree. Let's take a look at the roster through PFF and SPARQ and see how these players stack up coming into 2015.

LCB Orlando Scandrick, 5'10 194 lbs

Scandrick has been the best defensive player on the roster for the past two seasons. When he received an extension a few years back, folks we're shaking their heads. It seems like the front office saw something different. All though he's not the biggest, Scandrick can go toe-to-toe with just about any receiver he covers. Over the last five seasons, Scandrick has been a little bit of everything:

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 1,027 7.5 8.9 2 21 5 87.1
2013 1,118 3.4 8.5 2 20 9 88.3
2012 339 0.3 1.9 0 7 3 68.5
2011 680 -3.8 -6.4 1 16 3 100.2
2010 605 4.2 -1.7 1 21 6 113

As previously stated, Orlando has been better over the last two seasons. He went from a guy that you only had in the slot, to a guy that forced his way to the outside with great results. Now, don't get me wrong, in the slot there is nobody better than Orlando. With the selection of Jones, it could mean that Scandrick could go back inside more often where he's been able to create his own island. Scandrick has also proven to be Marinelli's secret torpedo, having recorded three sacks in Rod's tenure as a blitzer.

RCB Brandon Carr, 6'0 207 lbs

Brandon Carr has been the epitome of inconsistency since his arrival to Dallas. He signed a $50,000,000 contract in 2012 and seemed to be worth the money. The past two seasons Carr has really struggled. Brandon should not be treated like burnt toast just yet because he still has a lot of ability. With Dallas looking to play more press, it may be a good thing for Brandon, who seems to really have a hard time when asked to back off the receiver.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 1,170 -9.1 -11.3 0 17 7 114
2013 1,148 -0.3 -1.3 3 17 7 84.5
2012 1,043 1 -0.1 3 12 8 78.9
*2011 1,030 4.2 4.8 4 9 7 61.7
*2010 1,161 10.7 10.8 1 11 19 81.4

*Denotes seasons in KC

Last season's numbers are not very good, but it doesn't tell the whole story. In the last five games, Carr was a +3.9 and was really showing improvement. The Cowboys are moving Carr back to the RCB position, where they believe he's more comfortable. It remains to be seen if Carr will be asked to take a decreased salary, but he looks to build on the positives from the end of last year.

SCB Corey White 6'1 205 lbs

Corey White is entering his fourth year in the league and has had his fair share of struggles early on. He seems to be fit best as a slot corner, but his numbers leave more to be desired. We know that New Orleans has struggled on defense as of late and that surely needs to be considered. However, White was moved all over the field and actually outplayed his competition in NOLA, but that's not saying much.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 772 -17.8 -17.9 3 13 2 94.4
2013 678 1.6 3.4 1 19 5 91.1
2012 529 -7.3 -4.5 1 9 2 118.7

2013 was White's best year, he only played slot in five games but in those contests White did well. The opposing quarterback only had a 58.8 passer rating against White. Corey is looking to come in and fill a role that Sterling Moore played last season. It's worth the shot because their numbers over the years are eerily similar.

CB Morris Claiborne, 5'11 185 lbs

Claiborne is sort of in cornerback-purgatory right now. He's been hurt since arriving via the sixth overall pick in 2012, but has also struggled on the field. Many of the guys at the Mothership believe that Claiborne has zero confidence and the evidence on the field suggests the same.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 151 -6.5 -5 1 0 0 121.5
2013 522 -5.9 -5.9 1 7 4 94.3
2012 909 -4.1 1 0 10 7 107.8

Morris has had two operations on his knee since he was injured in last year's game against the Saints. Both of these operations were for his patella tendon, the recovery is a long process so to speak. Claiborne has told the media that he should be ready to go by training camp, but I wouldn't count on it. If Claiborne plays any meaningful snaps in 2015 that would be a success, but he has a long road ahead.

CB Tyler Patmon, 5'10 179 lbs

Patmon had limited snaps throughout the season, but it seems when he gets the chance, he doesn't disappoint. Tyler picked off Carson Palmer last year and took it to the house, he also had another pick-six in the preseason. With a year under his belt and time spent conditioning, he should be ready to make another leap in 2015. His small sample of numbers through PFF indicate a possible chance to compete for more time or at least becoming a steady insurance policy.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 117 -0.9 0.3 1 0 0 72.4


FS J.J. Wilcox, 6'0 217 lbs

Wilcox is more of a box guy than a free safety but has shown the relentless spirit needed for the safety position as a whole. Over the past two seasons, Wilcox has had awesome moments but has also had moments that leave you perplexed. Although, we tend to forget that the pass rush of this team never did them any favors.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 1,138 -11 -6.4 3 17 1 71.1
2013 530 -3.2 -6.8 0 8 1 98.3

Though his overall and pass coverage grades are not that appeasing, he did a nice job at disrupting the receivers, which shows in the quarterback rating levied against him last year. Wilcox has only played the position for three years and now enters his fourth. I expect the improvement will show from year two to three and possibly quite early. He's got some ball skills and can deliver a good blow, two things that will keep you on the roster.

SS Barry Church, 6'1 222 lbs

Church has been a solid defender for the Cowboys over the past five years. He's got good instincts that allow him to cover for his lack of speed. He's been a solid run defender as well and has led the team in tackles the last two seasons. For undrafted free agent, he's certainly made a presence for this coaching staff.

Season Snaps Overall Pass Cov. INT Neg. plays Pass Def. Def. Passer
rating
2014 1,026 2.1 -2.6 2 35 3 89.1
2013 1,048 -0.2 -0.8 1 28 1 96.2
2012 108 -0.8 -1.6 0 1 0 95.2
2011 172 3.3 -0.2 0 6 0 137.7
2010 119 -4.1 -1.3 0 3 0 117.7

Church only gave up a 100 passer rating three times last season and really helped the secondary look better at times. Church is the ultimate competitor and will only improve with guys like Sean Lee back plus an improved pass rush.

CB Byron Jones, 6'0 199 lbs

Byron should be able to step right in and help this secondary improve to new heights. The athleticism that Jones has can really be an asset to them on gameday. Few corners have the measurables that Byron has and the flexibility to play multiple positions. Where he can help the team most though is at cornerback. SPARQ paints a pretty picture of where this young man's range is at:

Player p-SPARQ z-Score Percentile
Byron Jones
150.8 3.3 99.9%

* Avg. NFL player at 0.0 z-score, 50% rating

What these numbers say is that Byron Jones is more athletic than 99.9% of other NFL athletes. His extremely high score on SPARQ does not mean that he's a shutdown corner, however he was garnering some favorable comparisons as of late. His traits are indicative of Darrelle Revis according to CowboysHQ's Keith Mullins on the Cowboys Crunchtime podcast. Let's not get carried away yet.  By watching the way he lined up during mini-camp, he was very impressive. The lack of space that he allows between himself and the receiver added with his speed, spells good things for the secondary.

A lot of these numbers are hard to digest, but when you look at just how poor the Cowboys were at creating sacks and getting pressure, it makes more sense. Dallas did a ton of work this offseason in order to improve their pass rush, they hope that it will have a trickle-down effect in their secondary. Hopefully the right chicken can produce the right eggs.

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