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Cowboys 2018 offseason priorities by position group: Cornerback

The position received a boost in the 2017 draft.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The next in a series of posts looking at each position group on the Dallas Cowboys roster, and determining just how much of a priority it will be this offseason. (The links to the rest of the series at the bottom)

Position Group - Cornerback

In last year’s draft, the Cowboys carpet-bombed the secondary, taking three corners and one safety. Two of the corners, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, look to be the real deal. Plays made on the ball were up last year, most notably when Awuzie finally got healthy and into the mix. The Cowboys also have former Legion of Boom secondary coach Kris Richard in the house. (For this article, we won’t include Byron Jones and Xavier Woods as corners, even though both could have a role there in 2018. We do note their availability influences the need at the position group.)

The Roster

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Bene Benwikere, Marquez White, Duke Thomas

The Breakdown

Chidobe Awuzie - Drafted in the second round, Awuzie had many worried when he couldn’t get healthy and stay on the field for much of the first half of the season. Hamstring injuries sidelined him off and on, but once he got in the mix as an outside corner, he was very good. What stood out most was his ability to adjust and make plays on the ball when it was in the air. This bodes well for the future in terms of getting interceptions. The problem we have with Awuzie is we are dealing with a pretty small sample size, we really need to see if he can a) stay healthy for an entire year, and b) continue to make plays when he is on the field for more than just half a season. He certainly looks like he has the tools to be an effective corner, but 2018 will tell us a lot more.

Jourdan Lewis - Lewis was forced into action pretty quickly after the Cowboys realized that Nolan Carroll was a big mistake. Luckily, Lewis was up to the task. He was the Cowboys most consistent rookie in 2017. He was also able to shake the idea that he was a slot-only corner after handling duties on the outside for much of the year. His smaller stature didn’t affect his coverage ability, or his willingness to make tackles against the run. In the long run the Cowboys may choose to use him more as a slot guy, but his versatility and play-making ability should serve Dallas well. Along with Awuzie, it appears the Cowboys have two talented, young corners.

Orlando Scandrick - The veteran corner is signed with Dallas through the 2019 season. There has been some speculation that the Cowboys might try to move on from Scandrick, but if they release him they will incur $4 mil in dead money. They may also use him as trade bait around the draft. More likely they’ll keep him as insurance for one more year, although his play has been on the decline. His ability to play the outside or the slot will help if he is needed.

Anthony Brown - Can Brown recover the magic that made his rookie season in 2016 so promising? Brown was a sixth-round draft pick that year but played more like a second-rounder. Most fans expected him to get even better in his second year, but the bottom fell out and he was eventually benched. He got grabby with receivers and lost all confidence, making him an easy target for opposing offenses. Perhaps Kris Richard can get him turned back around, this is a hugely important year for Brown.

Bene Benwikere, Marquez White, Duke Thomas - We’ll go ahead and lump these three together. If they even make the team, it’s very unlikely any of them will be in the regular rotation at corner unless injuries just crush this unit.

Offseason Priority - Low

We’ll mark this unit as a low priority, which many will disagree with, but here is why. They have four guys they can roll out there and feel somewhat confident in that group. Nothing is a sure thing, but those four all have experience, and at some point in their careers played well. Dallas also has the luxury of moving Byron Jones back to cornerback if they choose, a move that many think is the best thing for Jones. They also used safety Xavier Woods as a slot corner a lot toward the end of the year and he was very successful in that role. The Cowboys have options at corner, and most of them are pretty good options. It’s true that you can never have enough good corners in the NFL, but Dallas has issues at other positions that are more problematic than corner. Of course they may choose to spend a draft pick or two on the position, but it’s unlikely it will be early. They could also add an inexpensive veteran to the mix.


Quarterback

Running back

Wide receiver

Tight end

Offensive tackle

Offensive guard

Offensive center

Defensive tackle

Defensive end

Linebacker

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