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Reviewing the rookies: Xavier Woods a talented building block in young secondary

The sixth-rounder was a quality player for the Cowboys in 2017.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

How did each rookie perform in 2017? Did he out-perform his draft value, or did he struggle? This series will take a look at how each first-year player performed for the Dallas Cowboys in their first professional season. Catch up with our previous installments at the bottom of this article.

The Dallas Cowboys’ front office entered the draft with one goal: to improve the defense; but to be more specific - build the secondary.

Following the Cowboys’ decision to part ways with defensive backs Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, Brandon Carr, and J.J. Wilcox, it was no secret that Dallas had to find talent to replace the production at the back-end of the defense. Therefore, Dallas opted to select defensive end Taco Charlton in the first-round to ideally help get after the quarterback, and then took corners Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis with their day two selections. Ryan Switzer was the pick in round four, but the Cowboys quickly got back to the defensive side of the ball with their next selection.

Xavier Woods was a hot name during the draft process in regards to Cowboys targets. The defensive back played his college ball for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and was thought to be a player drafted on day two in the draft. The ‘Boys used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on the Louisiana Tech defensive back, and BTB’s Joseph Hatz wrote on him last April.

Conclusion: Despite not being an elite athlete and having some physical limitations you have to love the ball skills, physicality, and versatility Woods brings as far as being able to support the run and make plays on the ball downfield. He isn’t someone you want starting as a rookie due to his lack of discipline and at times overaggressive nature, but he looks like a player who could certainly play a role right out of the gate in nickel/dime, and probably also on special teams coverage units.

The Cowboys addressed some of their secondary needs with the picks of Awuzie and Lewis, but they were not done. When Xavier Woods was still floating around in the sixth-round, the Cowboys opted to trade up to grab him. Woods had “no idea” why he fell so late in the draft, but Dallas was certainly happy that one of their guys was still available deep in day three.

Woods entered his debut season with the Cowboys with some high expectations. In fact, our own RJ Ochoa wrote that the former La. Tech DB could be the “newest Dallas Cowboys diamond” back in August.

Xavier Woods has, for the moment (it’s a very small sample size), made us all forget about J.J. Wilcox. He’s a younger, cheaper, more-understanding-of-basic-angles carbon copy of J.J.

During the preseason game in Los Angeles, Xavier jarred a fumble out that Kavon Frazier recovered. The play would be reviewed and deemed an incomplete catch, but the epic nature of the moment was something that could not be overturned. He laid the wood so to speak (I hate myself for taking the lay-up pun), which is something he did frequently during his days at Louisiana Tech.

While Woods didn’t immediately start in the Cowboys’ secondary, the rookie slowly but surely grew into a quality player for America’s Team. He had a productive game in week three against the Cardinals totaling three solo tackles, a pass defensed, and two hits on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. He was all over the field, nearly recording a pick-six, and was a big bright spot in the win.

Woods was getting better and better as each week came and went. He was growing more comfortable on the NFL level, continued to learn Marinelli’s scheme, and was seemingly always around the ball. It was easy to see why the Cowboys were so intrigued by his talent. In fact, Woods was one of the better rookie defensive backs after four weeks of play.

Jeff Heath was the starter, but Woods was making a case for himself to get starting snaps. It was easy to see him improve each and every game, and his aggressive style gave the Cowboys’ defense a little bit of swagger. The highlight of Woods’ rookie season was incredible diving interception against the Falcons:

But that wasn’t his only highlight of his first-year in the National Football League.

Awuzie and Lewis get the hype in the Cowboys secondary, but Woods had quite the first-year and silver and blue, too. The rookie from Louisiana Tech finished the 2017 season with 42 total tackles, 33 solo, three passes defended, and his incredible interception against the Falcons. He also showed promise as he displayed his ability to make plays on the ball.

The future is bright, Cowboys fans.

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