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Could Datone Jones be an “under the radar” weapon for the Cowboys defense in 2018?

A strong finish in 2017 could lead to a larger role next season.

NFL: DEC 31 Cowboys at Eagles

The Cowboys are in the year-round business of improving this football team. Just ask Stephen Jones. Or, you can just take a look around and let their actions speak for themselves. Moves that we don’t think much of at the time can turn out to be rather important. A year ago around this time, the team signed former 2013 first-round pick, Jonathan Cooper towards the end of the season so they could get an idea of what he was capable of. Even though he never played a single snap for them, they must have liked what they saw on the practice field because they re-signed him to a one-year contract last offseason. It turned out to be a good signing. Cooper earned the starting left guard spot and started the last 13 games of the season for the Cowboys. And just like that, a “first-round bust” was put to good use.

Towards the end of 2017, the team signed another former first-round pick of the 2013 draft in Datone Jones. The Cowboys added Jones to their roster the day after Thanksgiving and he ended up playing in the team’s final four games of the season, logging 117 total snaps. Jones, who was selected five picks ahead of Travis Frederick, played his rookie contract with the Green Bay Packers. After the Packers didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, Jones signed with Minnesota last March. He had trouble finding a home this last season as he had stints with the Vikings, Lions, and 49ers, before coming to Dallas.

Cowboys fans might remember Jones for a couple big plays he had in the NFC Divisional Playoff game a few years ago when he played for the Packers. First, he blocked a Dan Bailey field goal late in the second quarter that helped lead to a six-point swing when Mason Crosby knocked down a long field goal as the half expired. Then, in the second half, he pounced on that infamous DeMarco Murray fumble that Julius Peppers stripped away.

Jones is best suited as a 3-4 defensive end, but the Cowboys called upon him to help on the inside after David Irving missed the last month of the season with a concussion. He compiled nine tackles and a sack in his four games in Dallas. He flashed some great play, but that’s been his thing his entire career. A flash here or there, but just isn’t able to string together consistent play. He’s got a great quick-burst and it was on display against the Seattle Seahawks.

And his sack came in the season finale against the Eagles.

The Cowboys fell short this season, but their defense really started putting it together toward the end of the year and the play of Jones is certainly worth acknowledging. The veteran defensive lineman is under contract with the Cowboys for 2018, costing the team only $790,000 against the cap. He’s a great player to take a flyer on and if he can build off his productive reps late in the year, he could be someone to keep an eye on next season. He doesn’t have to play like a first-round pick to be a valuable asset to the defense. His role may end up being just a bottom roster guy who can work himself into the rotation with a few snaps here and there. Or maybe he’s not even in the mix for 2018 and gets released. Who really knows what his path looks like, but it’s nice having a player with his ability who offers some upside. That’s exactly what this team looks for with these types of signings.

One thing is certain, Jones is hungry and still has something to prove to the league. Whether that amounts to anything is a great unknown, but if it does - the Cowboys could benefit from a nice boost in the interior defense line.

Do you like what you saw from Datone Jones this season? Could you see him having making an impact for the Cowboys defense in 2018?