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Cowboys cornerback grades: Why this group will surprise people this season

There are a lot of reasons to be excited for the Cowboys upcoming season. And the cornerback position is one of them.

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UCLA v Colorado Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

In a matter of just two seasons, the Cowboys have completely blown up their cornerback position. That’s great news or terrible news based on how you perceived the old group. Both the team’s starting cornerbacks from last year, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, left in free agency. Carr was a model of consistency - consistently average. As great as he wasn’t, he could always be counted on to show up on Sundays and play average football. Claiborne on the other hand was close to the opposite. He had developed into a good corner, flashing some skills that reminded people why he was one of the top corners coming out of the 2012 draft. But unlike Carr, he wasn’t dependable. He missed games in every one of his five seasons in the league. Of the 80 possible games during that span, Claiborne only played in 47 of them.

But that’s all in the past. It’s time to put on our forward faces and I can’t help smiling about the potential of the Cowboys new-look cornerbacks. The group now consists of three new rookies, one draft pick from last year, a free agent from Philadelphia, and Orlando Scandrick. None of these players played a single snap for the Cowboys in 2015. Only Scandrick was on the team, only he missed the season due to a knee injury in training camp.

Let’s take a look at the group and see how they grade out among six important attributes for a cornerback in the NFL:

Chidobe Awuzie

If you haven’t started loving Chidobe yet, it’s not too late. The Cowboys got a talented corner late in the second round and he is putting it on full display during training camp. There are not a lot of things he doesn’t do well. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s got great quickness and finds his way to the ball. Having a lot of athletic traits is nice, but it’s his instinctive ability that transforms him into a strong corner.

Awuzie was such a great draft pick and despite being just a rookie, he’s going to produce immediate dividends.

Anthony Brown

It’s not common that a sixth-round pick can come into his second season in the league and be a dependable starting corner, but brace yourself because that’s exactly what’s happening with Brown. As a rookie, the Cowboys relied on him a great deal as Scandrick and Claiborne dealt with injuries, and he did not disappoint. Brown’s speed gives the team a legitimate outside corner who can deal with some of the faster wide receivers in the league. While there are veterans ahead of him and rookies behind him, this kid plays with a chip on his shoulder (literally) and is on the fast track in having a promising career in the NFL.

Orlando Scandrick

Write him off all you want, but the veteran corner is healthy and he’s ready to show this group of youngsters how it’s done in this league. Scandrick has had to deal with skeptics all his career so this year shouldn’t be any different for him. He’s a slot specialists so his instincts and quickness solidify his value to any secondary. But for all it’s worth to have such a reliable talent on the team, it’s his leadership that will be so instrumental to the younger players on the team. This group has a handful of fiery competitors just looking to outplay someone, so having a mentor like Scandrick will just feed their intensity.

Nolan Carroll

Like Scandrick, free agent Nolan Carroll is another veteran that many aren’t too excited about. He’s been on the wrong end of too many bad plays with the Eagles so it’s easy to understand why some people have doubts. But he’s not with the Eagles now. He will join a secondary that has better pieces in place, but more than that - he’s a solid defensive back. His judgment has got him in trouble on the field, but he won’t have to take so many risks with this group. His smooth hips allow him to change direction well and he’s got some good pop when he explodes to the ball. He doesn’t have the upside these younger guys have, but he’s a solid veteran that will out the depth of this unit nicely.

Jourdan Lewis

If Jourdan Lewis had the typical cornerback size and didn’t have the domestic violence trial ahead of him, he would have been selected in the first round of the draft a few months ago. While his size won’t change, that hasn’t hindered him as his remarkable college production speaks for itself. But NFL receivers are bigger so it remains to be seen if he can translate his effectiveness to the pro game. Lewis has remarkable quickness and can go toe-to-toe with some of the shiftiest receivers in the league. He’s ultra-competitive and is relentless in his pursuit to be the best. With news that he was found not guilty from his domestic violence case, the Cowboys already look like they stole one from the draft.

Marquez White

The sixth-round pick from Florida State is on the outside of the corner position group, but over the next few weeks look for him to stake his claim on the roster. If you look at White’s physical traits, you’d think he was a liability out on the field. But he wasn’t. Teams didn’t attack him. Why was that? Was he lucky or was he doing a good job covering the receiver? Some impressive stats to keep in mind (courtesty of PFF scouting report):

  • Allowed just 302 yards in coverage in 2016
  • Allowed just two touchdowns in coverage over the past three seasons
  • He didn’t allow an NFL passer rating higher than 62.3 in either of the past two seasons

White’s size means he’ll be able to challenge receivers at their high point. So far in camp he’s doing a great job.

The Coaches

We can’t talk about the Cowboys secondary without bringing up Joe Baker (secondary) and Greg Jackson (safeties). Last year marked their first year together and they turned a middling secondary into a strong performer. The Cowboys went from 24th (2015) in the league in yards per pass attempt to 13th last season.

Just imagine what they can do with some talented pieces added to the mix.

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