Earlier this week, the Cowboys added yet another cornerback to their roster in Daryl Worley. After drafting two cornerbacks, Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson, the Worley signing more or less confirmed the rumblings that at least one other cornerback, likely Chidobe Awuzie, will move to safety.
With more cornerbacks on the roster than anyone can keep track of anymore, it’s a bit of a guessing game as to who will be starting in the secondary. There’s a safe bet that Diggs will be given every opportunity to lock down one of the starting outside corner jobs, and the starting slot corner role will likely be another battle between Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown.
But as for the other outside corner? It’s a little unclear, especially with Awuzie’s expected position change. Brown and Lewis both have experience on the outside as well, although they’re both much better suited for the slot.
Robinson, the fourth-round pick out of Tulsa, certainly has the traits to become a really good outside corner opposite Diggs. With all the praise that Mike McCarthy, Al Harris, and Will McClay heaped on him after the draft, that certainly has to be the goal in the long run. But Robinson was a fourth-round pick for a reason, and he needs to refine fundamentals such as footwork and being less grabby in coverage. He may need a year to develop into a reliable starter, which is where Worley comes into play, quite literally.
Worley is entering his fifth year in the league, and at 6’1” and 215 pounds he’s got the frame that Dallas is seeking from their corners. A third-round pick by the Panthers in 2016, he put up two solid seasons starting mostly on the outside in the zone-heavy scheme Carolina ran. Through 25 starts, he had three interceptions and 19 passes defensed.
After the 2017 season, Worley was traded to the Eagles, but they cut him a month later after an altercation with police. The Raiders snatched him up soon after; Worley only played in 10 games that year between a suspension and an injury, but he still tallied seven passes defensed and one pick.
In 2018, Worley took a step forward under new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, whose scheme is almost identical to the one new Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards ran in Minnesota. Asked to play a lot more press man coverage, Worley was able to utilize his long frame and allowed a completion percentage of just 53.5%, which was the 15th lowest mark among cornerbacks with a minimum of 50 targets. For contrast, Byron Jones allowed a 53.1% completion rate on 22 less targets.
Worley really possesses everything the Cowboys seem to be prioritizing in the position. He’s tall, long, and big enough to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and while he’s not exactly a ballhawk, Worley has never finished a season without an interception. And his one pick from the 2019 season came on a play where he demonstrated excellent press man coverage and a knack for getting his head around to locate the ball:
Obviously, the one-handed catch is impressive, but Worley also did a great job of using his hips to leverage the receiver against the sideline, positioning himself between the quarterback and his man. The only way he gives up a completion there is if the quarterback manages to drop the ball right into the receiver’s hands. He doesn’t, and Worley maintains his leverage to get the pick.
While Worley does have some good skills that make him a fit for what the Cowboys seem to want to do in coverage, he’s likely not a long-term option. Worley just isn’t that athletic, as he lacks long speed to carry faster receivers downfield and doesn’t have the agility to hold up against more accomplished route runners:
Worley isn't the quickest to change direction. Gets widened by Marvin Jones' release here and can't react inside quick enough. Result is an easy TD. pic.twitter.com/OF8U8wuVsn— John Owning (@JohnOwning) April 29, 2020
But he has the experience and traits to hold up as a stopgap option while another player, ideally Robinson, develops as a cornerback. Of course, there’s also the chance that Robinson ends up being a quick learner and claims a starting spot right away, which is likely the best case scenario. But if not, the Cowboys should feel confident in Worley’s ability to contribute solid starting-caliber snaps for now.