SB Nation recently asked its NFL blogs to name its best “under-the-radar” defender. Of course under-the-radar means different things to different people. So we took it as a player having a really good year, but isn’t named DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, or David Irving. For various reason, those players are either known to the NFL public, or there is nothing about their game that is under-the-radar.
Four of BTB’s writers thought that Jourdan Lewis was the best candidate for the criteria. The third-round pick out of Michigan has been thrust into essentially a starting cornerback role. And he has thrived. Lewis is a rookie who is a little on the small size so it was thought he might be a “slot corner” only. That turned out to be wrong. He has great instincts as a corner and is a nice open-field tackler. He can match up with the biggest and speediest receivers like Julio Jones.
Some comments on Lewis:
OCC: He completed just one practice in training camp and missed the first game of the season, but that didn't stop the rookie corner from making an immediate impact with the team. He's played on 69% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps (the fifth-most of any defender), has three starts, and played well enough for the Cowboys to release Nolan Carroll. And if you think the last point is damning Lewis with faint praise, you probably don't understand how much the Cowboys prefer the know qualities of a veteran over the unknown qualities of a rookie.
Michael Sisemore: I don't think the casual fan really knows how good he's been. He only has one interception and 31 tackles but sometimes not hearing your name called is a good thing. He's going to win some battles and lose some battles but he's gradually become better with each week. PFF is not always everyone's favorite metric but they did show that Lewis wasn't even targeted against the Chiefs. Lewis is sticky as they come in man coverage and there have been a lot of plays that weren't made on this defense because Lewis has his man covered.
Lewis wasn’t the only candidate our writers brought up.
Maliek Collins - He hasn’t had the sack totals many thought he might have, but he has been disruptive in the backfield and since David Irving has returned, he appears to be turning it up a notch.
Tyrone Crawford - He’s been having a solid season, benefiting from Lawrence’s and Irving’s presence. He was falling out of favor with the Cowboys fans because of his large contract and lack of production, but this season has been different.
Some other mentioned included Anthony Hitchens, Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick.
Given the very fluid definition of under-the-radar, who would your player be for this honor?