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Cowboys news: The Cowboys remade secondary needs one of these guys to step up

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The latest on defensive backs, the offense, and more.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Best-Kept Secret on Every NFL Roster Heading into 2020 Season - Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

Chidobe Auwzie certainly has some supporters out there that think he’s better than given credit for.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Chidobe Awuzie

The loss of veteran cornerback Byron Jones in free agency was a blow for the Dallas Cowboys.

For Chidobe Awuzie, however, it’s a chance to come out from Jones’ shadow and establish himself as a key contributor and a rising young cover man in his own right.

Playing opposite Jones over the past two seasons has kept Awuzie busy. He’s been targeted early and often by opposing quarterbacks—an average of 6.2 times per game. And as Awuzie has gained experience, he has gotten better—his passer rating against and touchdowns allowed (89.1, three) improved in 2019 relative to his rookie season (96.4, five).

As good as the Cowboys are offensively, their fortunes in the NFC East will depend on whether they can rush the passer without Robert Quinn and play coverage without Jones.

If Awuzie helps get Dallas back into the postseason, well...

Play well in Dallas, and you tend to get famous quickly.

Donovan Wilson can be a wild card under new Cowboys’ staff - Jeff Tarpley, GigEm247

A forgotten name in the secondary, can Donovan Wilson make an impact for the Cowboys in year two?

Former Texas A&M safety Donovan Wilson was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys which meant that going into training camp it was unknown how much of a deep safety he could be. As it turned out, he was a pretty productive one in the pre season, picking off three passes and potentially establishing himself as someone to watch out for when the season started. However, despite the Cowboys’ issues with deep throws and particularly in forcing turnovers, Wilson stayed on the bench when the defense hit the field and played special teams only.

Despite not seeing much action as a rookie, Wilson was a big contributor during his time in College Station.

Wilson missed virtually all of the 2017 season at A&M with a knee injury. However, he returned in 2018 and despite missing parts of three games he was second on the Aggies with 66 total tackles. As a junior in 2016, he posted 59 tackles while moving between safety and nickel. He also had one interception and 5.5 tackles for loss. He saw action in all 13 games as a sophomore and spent most of his time at nickel. He led the Aggies with five interceptions and had a 60-yard pick-six interception against South Carolina.

Are DBs Darian Thompson & Daryl Worley Fighting for Same Job w/ Cowboys? - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

Two more names that can be potentially be battling for a spot on the 55-man squad are Darian Thompson and the newly-signed Daryl Worley.

Assuming that Dallas even keeps 10 total players in the secondary, do the last two spots automatically go to Darian Thompson and Daryl Worley?

Before signing Worley in April, the Cowboys had already added free agent CB Maurice Canady a month earlier. He is probably a greater lock for the 2020 roster than either Darian or Daryl.

So, you can see why I project that Thompson and Worley are competing for the same roster spot. And honestly, if some of these younger players have strong camps and preseasons, neither might might make it past final cuts.

If only one of them can make the roster, who has the edge?

While I try not to let the “shiny new toy” affect my judgment, I can’t help but be intrigued by Daryl Worley. He’s been a consistently solid player the last four years even with the changes in uniforms and personal issues.

Most of all, though, his versatility as a CB/S option gives him a considerable advantage in value over Thompson. If neither of these guys can claim a starting role in 2020, having Daryl’s position flex as a depth player is a better fit.

3 Dallas Cowboys who could be absolutely pivotal in 2020 - Reid Hanson, SportDFW

Elsewhere, what will a season of a healthy Tyrone Crawford mean for the Cowboys?

Everyone’s favorite player to cut could once again prove to be indispensable for the Dallas Cowboys defense. It’s easy to take the chronically overpaid Tyrone Crawford for granted but the reality is, in three of the last four seasons he’s been the Dallas Cowboys second-best D-lineman.

Every year fans try to cut him, every year the Dallas Cowboys pick up someone to replace him, and every year he locks down his spot. The versatile lineman has been a multipurpose tool for the Cowboys over the years. Part 3-tech, part defensive end, Crawford has played wherever the Cowboys needed him.

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Craw provides the stability needed at RDE. He’s a well-rounded end who can hold up against the run and offers secondary pass-rush moves against the pass. If Crawford wasn’t in the mix, I’d be very worried about the right edge this season. But knowing he’s around ensures the Cowboys to be adequately equipped at defensive end should Gregory and/or Smith not get back in time.

Dallas Cowboys: Could a backup be their secret weapon? - Tyrone Starr, The Landry Hat

Tony Pollard’s role in 2020 is a subject for debate.

The loaded receiving core of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie/new conductor of the Dallas Cowboys hype train CeeDee Lamb will also get plenty of touches. Adding to the pass-catching mix will also be tight end Blake Jarwin and you can figure that the ball will be in the air a fair amount of the time in 2020.

All of this could actually work in Pollard’s favor, however. With all the talent surrounding him and a capable coaching staff who could employ his skills, both in the run and pass game, Pollard will certainly not be the focal point of any opposing defensive game plan. This will likely provide him the opportunity to be one-on-one and in space, both of which would favor Pollard.

Even with the addition of Lamb, the continual progress of Gallup, and the star power of Elliott and Cooper, Pollard should get more than the 101 total touches he received in his rookie year. It is not hard to envision a scenario in which Pollard posts 600+ yards on the ground and another 300+ receiving.

Film room: Cowboys position battles to follow when football resumes, including a possible shakeup at cornerback - John Owning, SportsDay

Many expect the Cowboys’ offense to be exciting in 2020, but a position battle in the interior of the offensive line could determine just how good the unit will ultimately be.

While McGovern could compete at left guard and center, Biadasz figures to solely be in competition for the center gig, having started 41 games for Wisconsin at the pivot. While Biadasz is just a rookie fourth-rounder, his football intelligence is good enough that he can vie for a starting job right away. The biggest question for Biadasz is his play strength — his biggest weakness last year at Wisconsin.

While the new coaching staff may feel better if McGovern or Biadasz is able to beat out Looney at center, Looney does provide a solid floor the Cowboys know they can win with, which should ease concerns. If McGovern or Biadasz wins the job, it’s because they proved capable of outperforming Looney, which would be a good sign for the Cowboys’ offensive line.

Williams would appear to have a slightly bigger initial lead at left guard, but there’s a real chance someone like McGovern can steal his spot, especially if the Penn State product has maintained his play strength while recovering from his injury.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: The competition will be fierce at both spots and go a long way toward determining the kind of success Dallas has up front in 2020.

Cowboys will prosper if they trust Kellen Moore’s 11 - Tom Ryle, BTB

11 personnel is the way to go.

Those will always be gadget plays, to an extent. The bread and butter has to be 11, with an even higher percentage than the two-thirds Gehiken cites in his article. Bumping that up to 75% seems a good target. It allows the most talent on the field for passing, and with Elliott or Pollard, the team still has a potent ground weapon to use, with big play potential every time they touch the ball.

Last year, even with the questionable insistence on establishing the run, the Cowboys still had two 1,100 yard receivers in Cooper and Gallup. Lamb certainly has the potential to be that kind of producer on the field. Make no mistake, no matter what else it does for you, 11 personnel is a pass-first alignment, and should always be used as such. That definitely includes on early downs.

All of this still is reliant on the offensive coordinator. We have a tremendous hope that Moore is what we think he is, and will be given the freedom to bloom under Mike McCarthy. That in turn should maximize the talents and skills of Prescott, and benefit his teammates in turn.

The Cowboys’ addition of CeeDee Lamb benefits Dak Prescott, but it might help Ezekiel Elliott even more - Michael Gehlken, SportsDay

Adding CeeDee Lamb to the Cowboys roster has the potential to help in a number of ways.

When Cooper, Lamb and Gallup share a field in the future, defenses must respect the Cowboys’ ability to pass. Defenses generally will be forced to replace at least one linebacker with a defensive back, switching to a nickel or dime sub-package. Last year, Dallas attempted to pass on 70% of plays from 11 personnel, about the league average, per Pro Football Focus.

There was no cheating to stop Elliott.

And so, the highest-paid back — now second-highest to the Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey — got to work.

His longest carry of the season was a 33-yard touchdown in the season finale against the Washington Redskins. That was 11 personnel. He bowled through four Buffalo Bills defenders, three of whom were defensive backs, and evaded a fifth defender’s diving tackle attempt on a 30-yard run in November. That was 11 personnel.

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As a run blocker, Lamb exhibited physicality at Oklahoma and projects to be an asset for Elliott there. The rookie is considered versatile enough to play any of the Cowboys’ receiver positions, but coaches plan to give him extensive run from the slot in 2020. He can help seal an edge for Elliott on outside runs.

BTB Podcast

What position group is least likely to disappoint us in 2020? We discuss on The Ocho.

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