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 - Safety
We close out our series with a look at the last in line, the safeties. This position could be status quo going into 2018, or there could be a big shakeup. Two members of the group, Byron Jones and Xavier Woods, have dabbled as cornerbacks and where their final position ends up being is an open debate. Either way, adding some new blood would be a good idea.
Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods, Jameill Showers, Marqueston Huff
Byron Jones - All eyes will be on Jones this offseason as the Cowboys try to decide where exactly to play him. The Cowboys first-round pick in 2015 began his career as a corner, was shifted to safety, but he hasn’t blossomed there. Jones can struggle with diagnosing plays and taking correct angles, something a safety needs to excel at. He has supreme athletic abilities, but he just doesn’t have the natural instincts you’d want in a safety. His particular skill-set may be better suited as a corner with less decision-making and run support, and more of shutting down a receiver in pass coverage.
Jones would be a big corner, but that’s what new secondary coach Kris Richard likes. Dallas needs to see what Jones can do this year as they decide about picking up the fifth year of his contract for 2019. If the Cowboys do move Jones to corner in any serious way, then the need for a new safety skyrockets.
Jeff Heath - We joke about him being the GOAT, but in all seriousness the Cowboys need to decide if Heath is a starter or not. There is a definite argument to be made that Heath should be a special teams player first, and a rotational safety second. He’s got some of the same issues as Jones; he’s athletic but can struggle in the mental part of being a safety as his instincts on plays are not always the best. He does create a few turnovers every year and is involved in some big plays, but it’s the consistency that’s an issue. The Cowboys have two starting safeties and neither of them is ideal.
Kavon Frazier - After the Chargers game in 2017, the Cowboys started playing a lot more of Kavon Frazier. Always a special-teams standout, Frazier brought a physicality to the Cowboys run support that was missing with Jones. He’s an in-the-box safety for the most part so using him as a pass defender on a regular of a basis will come with challenges, but Frazier showed enough at the end of the year that he should be given a chance at serious playing time in 2018.
Xavier Woods - Let’s just make the cheap joke right away and label Xavier as the “x-factor” for the safety position. He spent a lot more time as a slot corner in 2017 than you would expect out of a safety, but that shows just how good he can be in coverage. The Cowboys may think he’s the future as their center-field safety, or they may continue to split time with him in the slot. Where they line him up this offseason should go a long way to letting us know where he will ultimately end up. Woods was another great find by the Cowboys in the 2017 draft, and should help shore up the safety position if the Cowboys keep him there.
Jameill Showers - We love his dedication, and his willingness to do anything to make the team, but he’s just not going to be a factor on the regular roster.
Marqueston Huff - Huff was signed to a futures contract. He’s knocked around the league for a few years and would likely be a special teams guy if he manages to hang on.
Offseason Priority - Medium*
This group is labeled as “medium” priority, solely for the reason that they return their four top guys at the position. But, if they move Jones to corner, then it becomes a high priority. The Cowboys can’t continue to insist that Heath should be a starter, and we don’t have enough of a sample on Frazier yet to form a definite opinion. Woods looks like he will be a quality player, but will they play him full-time at safety? Without Jones back there, this position group becomes very jumbled and would require resources spent either in the draft or free agency, or both.