The secondary of the Dallas Cowboys is in real good shape. The addition of defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard has been a godsend for the team as he has his troops playing at a high level. Byron Jones turned into a shutdown corner his first full season at the position and earned All-Pro honors. Second-year player Chidobe Awuzie quietly was one of the most smothering defenders in the league. And Anthony Brown resurrected his career with a strong performance in the slot. All three of them played extremely well. In fact, only four cornerbacks had a tight window target percentage greater that 34% last season, and three of them were Cowboys - Jones, Awuzie, and Brown. That’s remarkable.
Things look even better this season. Brown is breaking up passes left and right. Jourdan Lewis is playing with a newfound fire that is going to make it hard to keep him off the field. And rookie Mike Jackson is having a nice camp as well, giving the team depth at the cornerback position. Jackson is the first and only cornerback draft resource the team has used since Richard joined the staff, and he just so happens to be the only one of these five who is over six feet tall.
But the depth at corner keeps growing strong as last year’s undrafted free agent Donovan Olumba is also making some noise in camp.
Standing at 6’2”, Olumba is even taller than Jackson (6’1”). He brings a physical presence to the position that coach Richard looks for. He’s ultra competitive, and despite some limitations with his speed, Olumba always seems to be around the ball. On Saturday, he was all over the field breaking up passes, and even had a pick when Cooper Rush threw a floating duck up for grabs.
Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman had a front row seat to Olumba’s body of work during training camp practice and they were impressed (2:25, 2:55, and 8:10 mark in the video). Eatman asked, “What’s the training camp record for most pass deflections in a practice?” Broaddus responded by saying Olumba was the “Ford big play player of the game.” This showing is certainly a great sign for the Cowboys young corner, but it’s still an uphill battle for him to make the team.
The team only kept four cornerbacks at final cuts last year, but they were fortunate enough to never have a need for much help from the backups. With Jackson being a recent draft investment as well as having a good camp, he figures to be a relatively safe pick to make the final roster. That puts them at five cornerbacks, so does that leave Olumba on the outs?
Not so fast.
The Cowboys may be sitting in great shape now, but they will need to look ahead to make sure this position is covered for the future. Both Jones and Brown are in the final year of their contracts, with Jones currently playing under his fifth-year option. Awuzie and Lewis have two years left on their rookie deals before both of them enter free agency in 2021. Here is a breakdown of the each one of these guys and how long the Cowboys have them under contract.
The Cowboys need to keep replenishing this position group with talent and if they see something in Olumba, it might be wise to keep him around by burning a roster spot even if he isn’t expected to see much action this year. Olumba is signed through 2020, but he’ll then become an exclusive rights free agent in 2021, which means the Cowboys can keep him on the roster another year for real cheap. Those types of financials matter.
Similar to how they draft, they could make roster cuts based on talent versus need. That means if they feel good with the reliability of their safety group, they could go light at safety to allow them to go deep at corner.
Mark my words...DB Donovan Olumba makes this team over George Iloka. pic.twitter.com/mdpVfxOE1T— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) June 12, 2019
Rookie CB Mike Jackson has been good in camp too. The Cowboys have a strong top six at cb with Byron, Chido, Brown, Lewis, Olumba and Jackson— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) August 4, 2019