The Dallas Cowboys have admired the Seattle Seahawks’ way of creating an opportunistic defense going back to when Rod Marinelli first took over. This week, they decided to hire one of the Seahawks former architects of the “Legion of Boom”. Kris Richard, Seattle’s former defensive coordinator and secondary coach, will now take over the duties of passing game coordinator and secondary coach in Dallas.
With any new hire, there is the questions of potential changes. One of the potential changes that has been tossed around, at least by fans, is moving Byron Jones to cornerback. Could that be coming to fruition now that Richard is in the fold?
Kris Richard was a former defensive back himself and third-round pick for the Seahawks back in 2002. Richard has been an assistant coach in Seattle for the past eight seasons and implemented a hard-hitting style in the secondary that Pete Carroll really liked. Usually the physicality in Richard’s secondary comes from the safety position while he prefers lengthy cover corners on the outside. As the Cowboys continue to rebuild their secondary, you can expect that Richard will have a big influence on the philosophy of that rebuild.
Byron Jones has been playing free safety for a few seasons now but it just hasn’t worked out the way the Cowboys had hoped. He is very athletic with speed and coverage abilities, but he’s not very physical. He’s not the most consistent tackler and that’s a big problem when you’re the last line of defense on the back end. Has he made some really great plays? Absolutely, he has but he’s just not the right fit for the free safety position.
There is speculation all over about potentially moving Jones to cornerback, where he played early on with the Cowboys. The strengths of Byron Jones’ game is his ability to cover and he’s especially solid in man coverage. Coming out of Connecticut, all the raves about Jones had to do with his athleticism and ability to shadow his man, leaving the thinnest amount of space between he and his opponent. That sounds like a cornerback and Jones certainly has the length that Richard covets in his corners.
During Richard’s coaching career with Seattle, they have only drafted one cornerback that is below six feet and that was Walter Thurmond III at 5’11. If you look at the cornerbacks they have drafted, seven in total since 2010, all of them had arm lengths over 32 inches. Out of all the defensive backs drafted, only Earl Thomas had less than 32 inch arms at 31 1⁄4 inches. Byron Jones is 6’0, 205 lbs, with an arm length of 32 inches, he falls right in line with what they would want at cornerback under Kris Richard.
Right now, the Cowboys are certainly not a finished product in the secondary. There were rumors that they were looking to trade Orlando Scandrick during last year’s draft. Though that seemingly wasn’t true, he’s hinted on his own social media account that he may not be in the future plans for the Cowboys. Scandrick is 30-years-old and hasn’t made it through a full season since 2013, missing five games this past year.
Though he still has plenty to offer in a role, they need more from an outside cornerback opposite Chidobe Awuzie. Byron Jones could be the type of athlete they need to pair with Chidobe on the outside. Jones needs an opportunity to either show he can play cornerback or that the Cowboys made the wrong pick, one or the other. As a first-round pick, it’s not going to be acceptable to have him as a special cover guy in a diminished role. As a cornerback, he can match up with the longer receiver types and he certainly has the speed to stay with guys.
If the Cowboys are able to bring Jones down to a cornerback spot, the defense will be much more efficient. It will allow Jourdan Lewis to move into the slot position, which is where he starred at Michigan. It will also allow the Cowboys to look for a free safety be it free agency with Tre Boston or via the 2018 Draft. They may even already have that guy on the roster in Xavier Woods.
The Cowboys are going for a youth movement in the secondary, but they also need to evaluate how to best use the talent they already have. Kris Richard is an innovative coach that has respect across the league for being able to teach defensive backs how to be as physical as possible, make plays on the ball, and show aggressiveness all while keeping an eye on the rules. If anyone can get the most out of the talent on this secondary, it’s Kris Richard. In order to do so, the front office must admit their original thought of Jones playing safety has been a failure. It’s time to move him to cornerback and see what he can do. The hire of Richard could very well save Byron Jones’ career in Dallas.