Earlier this week, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell released a great piece breaking down the NFL’s top 20 contenders biggest weaknesses. We covered it earlier this week here.
For reference, this is what he had to say about his choice for the Cowboys biggest weakness - cornerback:
Achilles’ heel: cornerback
Expected starter: Jourdan Lewis
Where the Eagles go, the Cowboys typically follow close behind. Dallas was able to retain wide receiver Amari Cooper and upgrade its defensive line this offseason, but it took a step back at cornerback after losing Byron Jones to the Dolphins in free agency. The Cowboys re-signed Anthony Brown, who should start in the slot, and Chidobe Awuzie will likely return as a starter on one side, but they’re hoping to replace Jones by having someone emerge from a committee.
Lewis is the favorite on paper to emerge as the starter, but minor injuries to Lewis and Awuzie have created an opportunity for second-round pick Trevon Diggs. Veteran Daryl Worley and fourth-round pick Reggie Robinson could also figure in the mix, although both have seen some snaps at safety in camp. Diggs still needs some refinement and might give up a big play or two early in the year if forced into the lineup, but he has the most upside of the bunch and figures to be a regular by the end of the season.
Barnwell makes excellent points here, and there’s no denying the void created by the departure of Byron Jones in free agency. While the team hopes Chidobe Awuzie can make a leap, and rookie Trevon Diggs can play above expectations in his first year, relying on those two to play up to Jones’ standards would be a massive mistake. Even with the question marks in the cornerback room, I still have to disagree with Barnwell, in that it’s the Cowboys biggest weakness. While he got the level of the defense right, the safety position is much more concerning heading into the season.
As it stands now, the Cowboys only healthy safeties are Darian Thompson, and Donovan Wilson. The Cowboys released Clinton-Dix today after he had a very disappointing training camp, and has recently saw Darian Thompson take over his snaps with the first-team in camp practices. While Thompson isn’t a bad rotational player by any means, relying on him to start would be a massive mistake. Donovan Wilson is a promising young player, but is still a massive projection moving forward due to his lack of experience. Xavier Woods is still a solid starter in the back-end of the secondary, but is nursing an injured groin, and may be limited in the week one practice report heading into the season. Even with Woods healthy and on the field, the other safety spot consisting of Thompson or Wilson is of big concern in Mike Nolan’s match-based scheme we’re expected to see in 2020.
Another reason the safety position is in danger more than the cornerback spot is that the corners have actually played really well in training camp. Chidobe Awuzie has been reported to have one of his best camps yet, Trevon Diggs looked to be gaining coincidence with more reps on the boundary, and veteran’s Anthony Brown and Daryl Worley have had solid showings as well. Outside of hearing about Xavier Woods early in camp, we haven’t heard much about these safeties, other than they have been shuffling guys around to find a fit at the position.
While the cornerback position doesn’t look elite on paper by any means they still have plenty of bodies to throw at the position, and most of them have NFL starting experience under their belt, something the safety room can’t say right now.
Though there is one player out their that could help the safety room a ton....