The Blue/White scrimmage has come and gone and the Cowboys’ opening preseason game is Thursday night. In the scrimmage, we saw a young defense fly all over the field, wreaking havoc en route to causing numerous turnovers on the day. On one side, we would love for the offense to have a cleaner day with the regular season just around the corner; on the other, it has to be pleasant to see the defensive unit come up with big plays while playing with tons of energy and excitement.
The Cowboys’ defensive backs coach has a lot to do with the excitement.
Kris Richard has been a welcome addition
The biggest offseason acquisition that the Dallas Cowboys made in 2018 did not include bringing in a new player to the roster. It wasn’t the signing of wide receiver Allen Hurns, who caught 64 passes for 1,031 yards and ten scores for the Jaguars back in 2015. It was not Kony Ealy, a defensive lineman that the Cowboys nearly drafted back in 2014 and a player that had a Super Bowl MVP-worthy game for the Panthers just a few years ago. It wasn’t first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, second-rounder Connor Williams, or third-round receiver Michael Gallup, either.
Hiring former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard as the team’s new secondary coach was the biggest move that this front office made this offseason.
The architect of the Legion of Boom is now tasked with molding a young, but promising, secondary while working with perhaps the biggest brand in the sport. Dallas opted to boldly move on from veterans such as Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and Brandon Carr last offseason in favor of committing to the youth movement by drafting Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Each of the three rooks had some big moments in their first professional seasons. Awuzie, the team’s second-round selection, overcame some early season injuries and grew into a formidable defensive back while possessing high upside by season’s end. Jourdan Lewis starred at Michigan but fell into the third-round, and the former Wolverine developed into a stud for the Cowboys at corner. Xavier Woods had a highlight-reel interception against Atlanta and is in line to be starting in the secondary in just his second season.
Those three provide an excellent young core with tons of talent and potential. Elsewhere, the Cowboys made the decision to move Byron Jones from his safety position to out on the boundary at corner.
The 2015 first-round draft pick showed flashes from the spot he played his first three professional seasons, but he has the tools to flourish at his new position under the tutelage of Kris Richard. Jones, 6-foot-1 and 200-pounds, possesses a large frame that compares to corners that have previously succeeded in Richard’s scheme. Dallas’ defensive backs coach is salivating of what Jones can potentially do in his defense.
“Having a guy of his stature, the physicality, the speed. He’s got all the tools,” Richard said. “We just have to make sure we do all the rest, all the mental work, and all the technique work in order to put the whole package together.”
So far, Jones looks to be excelling at his new position.
But Jones is not the only one that has impressed so far in training camp — numerous defensive backs have got in on the fun. Our own DannyPhantom wrote on who raised their stock in the Blue/White scrimmage, and he had this to say about the cornerbacks:
For anyone questioning Kris Richard’s decision to go with Brown over last year’s top corner Jourdan Lewis, you might want to give it another thought. Brown is showing up more and more in camp and on Sunday he jumped Cole Beasley’s route for a pick-six. He would also get his hand in on deep pass that resulted in another interception.
Marquez White would have a nice interception where he tracked the ball perfectly and then jumped up to high point the ball. For those who have White making the 53-man roster, this has to be a good sign.
In the daily battle of which UDFA defensive back plays well, it wasn’t the best day for rookie Charvarius Ward. He made the highlight reel, but not the way you would like. In one of the day’s best plays, Tavon Austin reached out and snared the ball away from him. The coverage wasn’t terrible, but Ward didn’t get his head turned around quickly enough and that was all the opportunity that Austin needed. But Ward would redeem himself later when he picked off a deflected pass from Dalton Sturm.
All-in-all, Kris Richard has undoubtedly been a huge addition to not only his position unit, but to the entire squad as a whole. He has his defensive backs playing with a swagger and confidence that we really haven’t seen. If Richard can get his group to continue this level of play, there is no telling how good this unit can be. A defensive front featuring Tank Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory, and company to go along with the potential of this secondary could make for a strong defense this season.
From trash talking the wide receivers during practice to his ability to relate to and earn the respect of his players, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator looks to be the biggest and best offseason acquisition for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018.