The Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks have been one of the most impressive position groups this preseason. The Dallas defensive backs are doing this without their number one man, All-Pro Byron Jones, even stepping on the field yet this camp.
With the Cowboys being just a few weeks away from their Week One matchup against the New York Giants, there is some real question if Jones will be on the field on September 8.
Garrett suggests there had been a minor setback in Byron Jones’ return from hip surgery but #Cowboys remain uncovered. @1053thefan— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) August 20, 2019
Think the possibility of Byron Jones missing actual games has to be taken seriously now.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) August 20, 2019
With the impressive performance of their young corner group, Dallas is showing that they can still be strong at the position with or without Jones on the field. The Cowboys are getting encouraging signs from almost all their corners. Let’s by taking a look at the guy who has been filling in at the number one corner spot in Jones’ absence, Chidobe Awuzie.
Entering his third NFL season, Awuzie looked like one of the best candidates on the Cowboys’ roster to take a big leap forward this season. To this point of camp, he has proved that narrative correct. The 24-year-old made two very nice plays breaking on the ball in Week One of the preseason against San Francisco.
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 has been getting his hands on the football a lot during training camp practices as well.
@chidobeawuzie | #CowboysCamp pic.twitter.com/1XERbLtFgX— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) August 14, 2019
If Jones is forced to miss regular season time, a lot will be expected of Awuzie as the Cowboys’ number one corner. The Colorado product has registered 18 pass defenses in his first two NFL seasons, but has only recorded two interceptions. If he is able to continue his strong play and turn some of those pass defenses into interceptions, Dallas could have one of the best starting corner combos in the league when Jones returns.
Probably the most talked about Cowboys corner other than Byron Jones this offseason was Jourdan Lewis. Many speculated if Dallas would look to move the third-year man during the offseason. Of course the Cowboys never did, and so far this preseason that is looking like an outstanding move.
Lewis has had a very hot start to training camp, and everyday it seems like his stock continues to soar upwards.
Jourdan Lewis diving interception in team drills pic.twitter.com/7ScHJ4T3lL— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 14, 2019
Jourdan Lewis, hell of an INT in 1v1s pic.twitter.com/lCwIwgizBC— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 7, 2019
Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard also had some strong praise for Lewis when he was asked about him last week.
“It’s amazing because every time I’m asked about Jourdan, you know ‘the prototype, the prototype,’ well there’s an exception to every rule... There’s a profile, but the profile at the end of the day is ‘do you got dog in you?’ That’s ultimately what it comes down to. Jourdan has every bit of that. There’s no poodle in this guy, he’s all pit bull... He’s got it. He’s got it in his heart and really what it comes down to is you can be as tall as you want, as long as you want, if you don’t have the heart condition for it, then it’s hard for us. But he’s got the heart condition and that’s what matters most. He’s going to battle his tail off, he’s tough, he’s got speed. He’s another one that he’s got the mindset, he’s got the brain for this game, he sees stuff and he anticipates. That’s what matters.”
Lewis is probably the player who will be affected most if Jones is not ready to start the season. Despite his solid play, if Jones is healthy it is hard to see Lewis taking over a big role, at least at the start of the regular season. But if Jones is out, Anthony Brown will have to slide outside to start, leaving Lewis as the Dallas starting slot cornerback. Losing an All-Pro cornerback is never a good thing, but it would be interesting to see if Lewis could build on his strong summer if he was given a starting role in Jones’ absence.
Last but not least we get to the final starter, and probably the least talked about Cowboys’ corner, Anthony Brown. It is hard to believe Brown is already about to enter his fourth season in the NFL. In his three years in Dallas, Brown has started 30 of the 47 games he has appeared in, recorded 27 pass defenses, and four interceptions.
So far Brown has had a fairly quiet camp to date, but did make some nice plays against the 49ers in Week One.
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
Since he arrived in Dallas, Brown has seemingly been a forgotten man on the Cowboys defense. He is never one of the first ones to come up in a discussion, even at his own position, but quietly Brown has had a solid Cowboys career.
If Jones is forced to miss regular season games, Brown’s role will change from what it has been the past two seasons. He will be forced to move to starting at outside corner rather than being the starter in the slot like he is accustomed to. Brown does have NFL experience playing outside in his rookie year, but most of the work he has done has been in the slot.
To pair with their potential starters Dallas also has corners Mike Jackson, Donovan Olumba, and C.J. Goodwin competing for a roster spot. By most accounts, Olumba has had the best camp so far out of the three, and Jackson has struggled the most. Goodwin had been one of the Cowboys best special teams players, so his versatility will help him in regards to making the roster.
All in all, cornerback is one of the Cowboys’ best position groups. When healthy, Jones will make the Dallas defensive backs much better, but if they are forced to play a couple of early season games without him, they should be okay.