The Dallas Cowboys are determined to build a solid defense to go along with their explosive offense.
The staff is revamping the entire secondary, letting Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox and Brandon Carr leave during free agency. The Cowboys did bring in Nolan Carroll and return Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown, but the Dallas Cowboys used the NFL Draft as an opportunity to re-make the secondary.
In this series, we have covered first-round selection Taco Chartlon and second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie. Today, we’re taking a look at third-round pick Jourdan Lewis.
Jourdan Lewis was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 92nd pick of last month’s draft. The talented defensive back from the University of Michigan had the potential to be a high pick, but off the field concerns dropped him. For this profile, we will stick to his on-field ability and how he will help reshape the defense in the Big D.
The former Michigan defensive back does not possess the prototypical size for an NFL DB. However, the 5’10” 188 lb defender knows how to make his impact felt all over the field.
Through his first two years in Ann Arbor, the former four-star Army All-American prospect was able to get himself onto the field. During his freshman campaign, Lewis racked up 14 solo tackles and defended two passes. Though it was in limited duty, Lewis was on the field for a big-time program fresh out of high school.
Lewis began seeing more action as a sophomore. He recorded 39 total tackles — 28 of which were solo — made 1.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, defended six passes, and grabbed two interceptions. Lewis saw his playing time rise, making seven starts in twelve games, and made his time count.
Jim Harbaugh took over the Michigan football program during the off-season before Lewis’ junior season. That proved to be beneficial for the highly talented defensive back.
Lewis became a permanent starter on Michigan’s defense — starting all 13 games for the Wolverines. The undersized corner totaled 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, brought down the quarterback once, and even forced a fumble. In addition to those stats, Lewis caught two interceptions, including one that he took 36 yards to the house against Northwestern. Lewis showed signs of his talent all throughout his third season at Michigan, but returned for his final season in Ann Arbor.
Lewis’ final season at Michigan did not start the way that he would have liked. Lewis suffered a back injury during fall camp and lingering effects kept him out of the first three games of the 2016 season.
Nonetheless, Lewis starred on the field. Lewis recorded 27 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and picked off the quarterback twice in his final year — including this amazing grab:
He did not have the same numbers as his junior season — partly due to unfortunate injuries — but his performance over the course of his final collegiate season earned him plenty of honors.
The Wolverines’ defensive back was a consensus All-American selection, named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award — given to the nation’s best defensive back.
Here is what Lewis’ draft profile says are his strengths:
Strengths: Ultra-competitive with an overwhelming drive to succeed. Allowed just seven catches in 2016 for completion percentage against of 23.3. An annoyance from press coverage. Squats on top of his target waiting to punch and impede. Twitchy feet can stick and close to ball instantly when he reads pass. Able to flip hips and accelerate quickly. Has lateral quickness and agility to flourish from the slot. Has adequate recovery speed to make up for an early mistake. Finds ball with back to quarterback as well as anyone in college. Maintains tight coverage downfield and waits for receiver's eyes to cue him in on when to turn and find it. In three years as a starter, credited with 42 passes defensed, including six interceptions. Allowed just two touchdowns during same time frame. Showed off ball skills and athleticism with highlight reel, one-handed interception against Wisconsin. Has special teams experience as a gunner and in return game.
His scouting report goes on to mention how his size is not typically ideal to battle with bigger, more physical receivers. Nonetheless, Lewis plays with an aggressive and fearless attitude.
Blogging The Boys own Michael Sisemore notes Lewis’ aggressive playing style and adds that he is a sound tackler — something the Dallas Cowboys’ defense will certainly welcome.
The Cowboys basically turned their empty cornerback stable into a crowded room. Lewis is another very aggressive corner with comparisons to Adam "Pacman" Jones. He loves the football and it's like his birthright to take it away from you. He's a willing tackler but also a very sound tackler. This is a guy that can play in the slot and is willing to throw his body around.
Lewis shows some of his physicality against Florida State. Lewis is lined up man-to-man on the outside against a bigger Seminole. FSU attempts to run a misdirection play action play, but Lewis does not get tricked and prevents the play from developing properly.
In this clip below, the Cowboys’ third-round selection showcases his ability to make a key tackle in the open field behind the line of scrimmage. A missed tackle could be the difference between a fourth down conversion and a six yard loss.
Against Northwestern during his junior season, Lewis shows both his ball skills and his vision. Lewis grabs the interception and returns it back for a Wolverines touchdown.
Jourdan Lewis also adds the element of returning kicks. He is has shown the willingness to make an impact in both the secondary and on special teams, something that can only help him at the NFL level.
While he did not record any touchdowns in the return game, Lewis showed he can make an impact at that spot over his last two seasons in the college game. Between his junior and his senior seasons, Jourdan Lewis returned 22 kicks for 505 yards for over 21 yards per return. He may not be a Ryan Switzer-type returner (who is?), but he still has shown he can be effective back there.
Overall, Rod Marinelli and company are adding a play-maker that should help the Dallas Cowboys’ defense take the next step of becoming a formidable defense. Lewis has the ability to contribute and make an impact on both the defense and on special teams, an element that the coaching staff enjoys. On the field, Jourdan Lewis is an excellent pick that will have the opportunity to make an impact in year one for America’s Team.
*Note: Gifs courtesy of Draft Breakdown and Big Ten Network. All stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.