After this past week, nobody can accuse the Cowboys of wearing any blinders. Between trading for Michael Bennett and coming oh-so-close to trading for Jamal Adams, the Cowboys front office took major steps towards trying to fix their two biggest weaknesses. One of those worked out, and the other didn’t.
And while some fans are probably still lamenting the near miss on Adams, a young All Pro safety with up to two and a half years left on his rookie contract, the team’s aggressive pursuit of Adams shows that they’re aware of their weakness. No disrespect to Jeff Heath, who has consistently put in work anywhere the team has asked him to and produced a fair share of takeaways, but he’s the weakest link in an otherwise strong, albeit inconsistent, secondary.
That’s why the Cowboys wanted Adams so badly, and it’s why they reportedly offered a first-round pick to get him. But Dallas has another yet-unexplored method of upgrading the safety position, and his name is Donovan Wilson. He doesn’t carry anywhere near the amount of shine as Adams does, seeing as Wilson was a sixth-round pick this year whom many thought would go undrafted. However, what Wilson brings to the table is similar in style to what Adams would’ve brought.
For a closer look at Wilson’s profile coming out of college, check out our scouting report of him from back in May. In short, Wilson is a thumper with ballhawk instincts who served as the leader of the defense at Texas A&M. In his senior year of high school, Wilson picked off 13 passes. Then, through three years as a starter in various roles with the Aggies, he had eight interceptions, as well as four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Conversely, Adams’ one knock thus far in his young career is his lack of ball skills. Much like Byron Jones, Adams is terrific in coverage and a great tackler, but has only two interceptions, four forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries across 39 career games. Whereas Adams has had issues with takeaways, Wilson made his collegiate career out of them, as well as bone-crushing hits.
This continued into the preseason, where Wilson saw extensive action after an impressive training camp. He finished with 11 total tackles, three passes defensed, and three interceptions. Currently, no Cowboys defender has more than interception this season, and Heath, in particular, has zero.
Yet, Wilson hasn’t been given much of a chance to see the field so far. He missed the first two weeks with an injury before making his NFL debut against Miami in Week 3. After not dressing out against the Saints, Wilson has been activated the past three weeks. However, he has yet to play even one snap on defense, logging all his playing time on special teams.
But if the Cowboys really do want to upgrade their safety position - and if they don’t, why did they try to mortgage their future for Adams? - they need to give Wilson a shot. That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing him into the starting lineup and having him play every down, but rotate him in with Heath in certain packages and see how he responds.
This week would be the ideal opportunity to do so as well, with the Giants and fellow rookie Daniel Jones on the schedule. This would be a good test of Wilson’s takeaway ability, as Jones has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled five times over his last five games. More than that, though, it would give the Cowboys a way to gauge his skills in run defense going up against one of the NFL’s best running backs, Saquon Barkley.
Naturally, there are going to be growing pains of some sort for Wilson, and Heath undoubtedly knows the playbook better, but Wilson has traits that could become incredibly valuable to this defense. If he’s able to play well against the Giants, that’ll only give him confidence going forward. But the Cowboys have to get him on the field first, and there’s no better opportunity than this week.