[After an incredible rise from worst to first in 2016 that saw the Cowboys ride the backs of two outstanding rookie campaigns to 13-3 and a changing of the guard, we have to examine the roster. From 1 to 53, we only have one question?
Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?]
Today, we round out the defensive side of the ball and ask if the Cowboys improved on the back end at safety?
Barry Church – (started 12 games, 85 tackles, four PDs, two INTs, one FF, signed four-year $26M deal with Jaguars, $12M GTD)
Byron Jones – (started 16 games, 88 tackles, 10 PDs, one INT, one FF)
J.J. Wilcox – (started 4 games, played in 13 games, 49 tackles, six PDs, one INT, one FF, signed two-year $6.5M deal with Buccaneers, $3.1M GTD)
Jeff Heath – (played 16 games, 23 tackles, two PDs, one INT)
Kavon Frazier – (drafted in sixth round, played nine games, six tackles)
Robert Blanton- (signed FA from Bills, started two games, played 10 games, 35 tackles)
Xavier Woods – (drafted sixth-round out of LA Tech, started 13 games, 84 tackles, 6.5 TFL, six PDs, five INTs, three sacks, one FF)
Jameill Showers – (converted quarterback, two seasons on Cowboys’ practice squad)
The biggest loss of the offseason in my mind was Barry Church. He was a great leader for this team and a reliable player. Still, there was no way the Cowboys were going to match the deal the Jaguars ponied up.
As we’ve discussed before, Jeff Heath doesn’t get enough credit outside of the legendary jokes and memes made of him. Heath gets judged by his rookie season where he had to start nine games way before he was ready. It’s not like he played horribly with 60 tackles, three passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble. He just had bad outings against guys like Adrian Peterson and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson while they were in their primes. Heath has made far more positive plays than negative and he’s going to get every opportunity to be the starter next to Byron Jones.
Speaking of Jones, folks like to bring up the interception totals but that’s not seeing the entire picture with him. He’s by far the best athlete on the defense and his ability to wash out tight ends is extremely valuable. With Jones, you have a guy that is only scratching the surface as a player. Now that the secondary has had a much-needed facelift, expect Jones to benefit from a more athletic supporting cast.
Kavon Frazier didn’t get many opportunities to play other than on special teams where he had six tackles. Frazier is an interesting case because the athleticism is there but something hasn’t clicked for him yet. He’s going to have a tough time breaking through with good competition ahead of him. His best bet is to prove his worth on special teams and just be ready if an opportunity presents itself.
Robert Blanton was signed as veteran insurance in case someone like Heath wasn’t ready for the spotlight. Blanton may still serve in that role as a guy who has been around the block and has meaningful starts in the NFL. However, he can easily be parted with should they need an extra spot somewhere else. Jameill Showers would have to have an outstanding training camp and preseason to make the roster. Showers don’t seem like a guy that’s going to beat anyone else out on this team for a position. His best chances are making the practice squad for a third-straight year.
Xavier Woods, my pet cat, is going to be eased into the NFL atmosphere but it’s not going to be too long before he begins to jump out on tape. Woods is a good athlete with great spatial awareness and football intelligence. Somehow, some way, Woods just always finds himself in the right position to make game-changing plays. What gives you confidence in his abilities is that there are so many nuances that can be taught but playmaking ability and instincts cannot. You either have it or you don’t, Woods has it, now can he translate his skill set to the NFL level?
Conclusion: Losing Barry Church is tough but there is confidence in Jeff Heath to take full advantage of this opportunity. Heath has played well enough that the front office showed confidence by not either trying to match an offer to one of their own or search for a starter in free agency or use a high draft pick.
Byron Jones is a consistent player who is learning and improving. Woods is the key to improvement here even though he’s a late-round pick. It’s hard not to root for him, and those 14 interceptions in three seasons are quite impressive. The Cowboys’ defense desperately needs guys that make plays on the ball. If anything else, they improved their opportunity (that word again) at creating a takeaway-driven back end.
Did The Dallas Cowboys Improve At Safety In 2017?
This poll is closed