When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Byron Jones 27th overall in this past draft, initially he was discussed as a cornerback. Not exclusively, but the vast majority of analysis discussed his role as one of the Cowboys corners. But the Cowboys let it be known right away that they also valued what Jones could bring at safety if they chose to play him there. That choice could be made through necessity, or through the pragmatic approach of getting the best players on the field. Where Jones plays this season could be more of a function of the Cowboys other personnel, as long as the team thinks the rookie could handle either position.
Todd Archer brought this up in an article today, based on a post from Football Outsiders. That post examined the biggest weaknesses of the four NFC East teams. Interestingly, safety was the choice for the Cowboys and the Eagles, while the secondary in general was the problem in Washington. The Giants suffer at linebacker.
The Cowboys secondary is still the position with the most moving parts. The running back position is an open question, but you have four candidates competing to be the lead dog, with all the rest playing supporting roles. In essence, it's only one position in flux. On the defensive line you have some moving parts, some of that based on Greg Hardy's suspension, but predicting the rotation there is not that hard. In the secondary, we got questions, not without potential answers, but questions.
Will the Cowboys and Brandon Carr work out a contract solution? Will Morris Claiborne be healthy enough to contribute? Is Corey White due for a bounce-back year? And are the Cowboys safeties good enough? Here's Football Outsiders take on the safeties.
At safety, though, the Cowboys are stuck with the eminently mediocre duo of J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church. Safeties are hard to analyze statistically because their assignments can vary wildly from team to team. By and large, though, we can say they are asked to prevent opposing offenses from making big plays, and the Cowboys' pair didn't offer much help there, especially in the running game. Church was 25th among safeties in run stops (tackles that stopped an offense from gaining 45 percent of yards to go on first down, 60 percent on second, and 100 percent on third or fourth); Wilcox was 61st. That would be fine if their conservative play was taking away home runs, but Dallas gave up 1.03 open-field yards per carry last year, third-worst in the league. (Open-field yards are rushing yards gained at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.) The Cowboys also struggled to stop deep passes, ranking 20th in pass coverage on throws that traveled at least 16 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Which brings us back to Byron Jones. He played safety for his first few years in college. He has the skills to play both positions. So where will he end up? Will Dallas have enough corners where Jones can move to safety and replace J.J. Wilcox? Is that even in the Cowboys plans?
Personally, I think Jones is going to play corner because I'm not sure that Claiborne will be healthy or stay healthy, or frankly that he'll good enough for the Cowboys starting rotation. Corey White is a questionable starter as well, leaving Orlando Scandrick, Carr and Jones as the best options at corner. But at this point, that's just a wild guess.
What's your take? Where will Byron Jones see the most time in 2015?