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BTB Mailbag: Realistic expectations for the Cowboys young secondary

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More mailbag questions from Blogging The Boys readers!

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With just a few days left before the Cowboys head off to training camp, we have a fresh mailbag question to get to regarding your very own Dallas Cowboys. The question we will answer is from Cody in Virginia regarding the secondary.

Cody from Virginia: “My question is what is a realistic projection for this young secondary and how much of an affect do you believe Kris Richard will have? who breaks out?”

The secondary has been a big part of the discussion in Dallas this offseason. The starting secondary will look very similar to what we saw in 2017, hopefully just better. To close out the season in 2017, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, Byron Jones, and Jeff Heath was the group deployed as the teams secondary. Awuzie and Lewis manned the outside cornerback spots, with Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods getting work at the nickel.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When projecting the starting secondary in 2018, you cannot ignore how young this group is. Awuzie (23), Lewis (22), Woods (22), Brown (24), Jones (25), and Heath (27) are all under 30, and still in the primes of their career. Awuzie, Lewis, and Woods are all entering their second year in the league after very promising rookie seasons.

To answer the first part of the question, this secondary has the potential to be a top eight-unit in the NFL. Last year, the Cowboys passing defense finished 11th in passing yards per game, and there’s hope that they can be even better in 2018 with another year of development for the second-year guys, and playing Byron Jones at cornerback, where some thought he should have been all along.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest factors in growing as a unit in the NFL is having a coach you believe in and that believes in you. The Cowboys now have that in Kris Richard. Richard has been coaching in the NFL since 2010. Richard had a big hand in building the Legion of Boom or as Richard likes to call it, Love our Brothers. Richard teaches a press-man heavy scheme that benefits bigger, longer, and more physical corners. He has a bunch of those types of guys to work with. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are both over 6-foot tall, and Jourdan Lewis has long arms and extremely physical at the line of scrimmage. Richard is teaching specific techniques for disrupting receivers at the line of scrimmage that were proven successful in Seattle. His pupils are already raving about the new attention to detail. There is optimism that Kris Richard can turn this secondary into one of the best, young secondaries in the league by the start of the season.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The last part of the question is a tough one. There are so many guys in this secondary that you can point to for a breakout year. Jourdan Lewis is a possibility, but it’s unsure if he’ll play on the outside, in the nickel, or even get a starting job due to Richard’s coaching preferences. So let’s go with second-year cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. That may be cheating a bit, due to the fact that he earned himself a starting job last year and played at a high-level to close out the season. Awuzie has the ideal size, confidence, and versatility to thrive in the Marinelli-Richard defense. If Awuzie can stay healthy, he should be discussed as a Pro Bowl candidate at the end of the season. He’s that good.