We are getting pretty deep into Cowboys training camp, and one player that has everybody talking is third-year safety Xavier Woods.
Woods, a sixth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, has been a fan favorite since the Cowboys drafted him out of Louisiana Tech. His physical play and hard-hitting ability is exciting to watch — and forces receivers and tight ends to think twice about coming over the middle on him.
A huge topic point leading into the 2019 draft was that the safety position was among — if not at the top of the list — the weakest units on the team. That is probably right, as Jeff Heath has struggled and Woods is young and still learning. Many were hoping that the Cowboys would ink an Earl Thomas because of that, but the Texas native opted for the Ravens. Then, the Cowboys made the decision to pass on taking a safety in the draft until late on day-three.
That made many scratch their heads; however, Jerry Jones, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota, said that the young defensive back would ask the staff “why is everybody worried about a safety?” leading up to April’s draft:
“I think he’s going to be one of the best safeties,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday. “When we were talking safeties (before the) draft … I’d run into him and he said, ‘Why are you so worried about safety? Got me back there. Why is everybody worried about a safety? I can do it.’”
That is significant confidence from a player that has only played two seasons in the National Football League. He hears the talk from fans and media calling the safety position weak, but he believes that he has it covered.
Machota wrote on 15 observations from Cowboys training camp, and he came away impressed with Woods, writing that “the argument can be made that no one is having a better camp than Xavier Woods”.
The argument can be made that no one is having a better camp than Xavier Woods. Dallas’ starting free safety has intercepted three passes and been all over the field. When called in front of the team in one-on-one drills to face Jason Witten, Woods did an excellent job of shadowing the 11-time Pro Bowler, giving Dak Prescott no window to complete a pass and leading to an eventual overthrow. It’s rare that anyone gets a win against Witten in those drills.
Another Xavier Woods interception. His third of training camp pic.twitter.com/amdFqGqdlo— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 4, 2019
Machota is far from the only one taking notice of the former La. Tech defensive back. David Helman listed him as one of the five Cowboys having “the most badass camps”:
If I had to pick five Cowboys players who are having the most badass camps so far, they’d be:— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 4, 2019
- Xavier Woods
- Maliek Collins
- Michael Gallup
- Jaylon Smith
- Reggie Davis
SportsDay’s John Owning says he sees Pro Bowls in his future:
Xavier Woods INT. Pro Bowls are in this man's future. #Range. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/6eaH6iPt34— John Owning (@JohnOwning) August 3, 2019
While Patrik Walker says you should have seen this coming from Woods:
It's almost like you were warned a long time ago about Xavier Woods.... nstuff.— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) August 4, 2019
Meanwhile, Jeff Cavanaugh says Woods will make Cowboys fans forget about not signing Earl Thomas:
You're going to see this year why the Cowboys didn't sign Earl Thomas. #XavierWoodshttps://t.co/dRH9eZ2FKM— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) August 2, 2019
It is, after all, only training camp but there is no denying how impressive Woods has been in Oxnard. He is practically a magnet to the ball, finding ways to cause turnovers each and every practice.
Xavier Woods read this from the jump #cowboyswire pic.twitter.com/QuQGBX7T0R— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 3, 2019
Another INT from Xavier Woods. Benefits from great coverage by Chido. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/RCceDnewtn— John Owning (@JohnOwning) August 4, 2019
It is no secret that the Cowboys have struggled to create turnovers. Despite having one of the better defensive units across the NFL in 2018, Dallas only recorded nine interceptions throughout the season — good for 26th in the league. If the Cowboys’ defense is going to take the next step to elite level status, takeovers is going to be the reason why. That’s where Woods can potentially excel.
As Woods told Machota and the Cowboys media, he has big goals for his third season, including winning the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl ring:
When asked about his goals for the upcoming season, Woods responded: “I want to be the best. I want to be the best safety. And as a team, collectively, we want to win the Super Bowl. Those are the only goals I’ve set.”
The Cowboys are going to need Woods to emerge as a star in order to make that second goal a reality. If his performances in Oxnard are any indication, Xavier Woods is set to breakout on the big stage in 2019.