Cowboys fans got some good news on Tuesday when the team activated both DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. But it was the one who wasn’t activated from the PUP list that caught some people’s eye:
Think the possibility of Byron Jones missing actual games has to be taken seriously now.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) August 20, 2019
Our own RJ Ochoa noted a few days ago that Jones missing at least the first week was a possibility, but the likelihood of that just increased significantly. The star cornerback had hip surgery at the end of March and was expected to be ready for the season-opener despite being placed on the PUP list. That seems doubtful now.
With two preseason games remaining, the window is narrowing for Jones to be activated prior to the start of the season. The team will eventually have to make a choice: activate Jones for the regular season and use a roster spot for him, or place him on the regular season PUP list that’d keep him out for at least six weeks. It’ll come down to how close Jones is to playing again, which is currently unknown to anyone outside of the Cowboys organization.
But if the Cowboys do have to face a reality where Jones isn’t on the field in the regular season, for however long it may be, they at least have options.
The Cowboys’ cornerbacks have looked good. Chidobe Awuzie has done a solid impression of Jones, being physical off the line, quick in breaking on the ball, and using his length to disrupt throws.
I'm looking forward to seeing Chidobe Awuzie make the leap this season. pic.twitter.com/NoK3hKeNw8— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 11, 2019
Awuzie would become the top corner on this team if Jones misses time, and he has the tools to handle that. Anthony Brown, last year’s nickel corner, would likely be the one to move outside opposite Awuzie. He doesn’t have a pass breakup in preseason yet, but he’s flashed some good cover skills of his own:
Doesn't get targeted but eyes on Anthony Brown in the slot. Watch how patient he is in press coverage. Doesn't bite on the WR hinting inside, which enables him to maintain good position and land a jam on WR. Slides into perfect leverage with the single-high safety. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/TXaBtGZRhy— John Owning (@JohnOwning) August 12, 2019
And that would leave everyone’s favorite forgotten man, Jourdan Lewis, to man the slot. Lewis had a promising rookie year when he was asked to start due to injuries in the secondary back in 2017, with ten passes defensed and one interception. Last year, his playing time fell off a bit but still managed an interception to seal the deal in the Cowboys’ huge victory over the Saints. Getting to see more of Lewis would definitely be a big consolation prize if Jones has to miss time.
The good news about Byron Jones? Jourdan Lewis exists. #FreeJLew— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) August 20, 2019
But another potential outcome of Jones missing at least the season opener is that Donovan Olumba might be able to make the final roster after all. Olumba has been the most impressive corner through the Cowboys’ preseason, and has already started a conversation about whether or not the team would be willing to keep six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster to make room for him.
Donovan Olumba is having himself a very nice game. pic.twitter.com/CIvZEyq1LL— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 18, 2019
Donovan Olumba with a nice pass break up. This is why Kris Richard loves tall, physical corners. pic.twitter.com/RXOj4zGh1O— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 19, 2019
If worst comes to worst, and the Cowboys place Jones on their regular season PUP list, then it would easily free up a roster spot for Olumba for at least six weeks. If not, Olumba might still make the team just based on his sheer talent. It’s never a bad thing to have too many good cornerbacks.
Of course, the most ideal situation for the Cowboys is still having Jones play in the season-opener. However, if that doesn’t happen, the Cowboys have plenty of options in their secondary. That’s a really good thing, since it looks less and less likely each day that Jones will return for Week 1.