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Cowboys news: Defensive backs continue to project as a logical Cowboys’ choice in round one

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Cowboys, CB Patrick Surtain II Linked In Yet Another Mock Draft - Kevin Brady, Inside the Star

Surtain II is just one of several corners to be linked to Dallas

At this point there are three major camps: those who want Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, those who favor South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, and those who want to make the offense as unstoppable as possible with Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.

The national mock drafts are even more narrow than just those three, however. Everyone seems to expect the Cowboys to snag the Alabama cornerback with their first pick. Recent trades from the Dolphins and 49ers make it even more clear that offensive players will dominate the top ten, and give the Cowboys their pick of the litter for the top defensive prospect.

NFL.com recently released another mock draft, with the Cowboys taking Surtain II tenth overall.

“Team need and player value merge at the 10th overall pick, with the Cowboys getting the kind of physical outside corner they could have had in Jalen Ramsey a few years ago. Surtain is a technician who plays the ball as well as any corner I’ve seen over the past 20 years.”

3 free agents the Dallas Cowboys should still pursue - Connor Green, The Landry Hat

There is plenty of talent for the Cowboys to still go after.

K.J. Wright, LB

The Dallas Cowboys defense was awful in 2020. The team gave up the fifth-most points per game in the league with 29.6 and also gave up the second-most rushing yards per game with 158.8. Needless to say, the team headed into this offseason in dire need of help on the defensive side of the ball.

With the team signing three new pass rushers and three new safeties (though Keanu Neal will likely play some linebacker as well) it is only fitting that the team uses the remainder of free agency to address a different position of need on defense, linebacker. The organization could do this by signing veteran linebacker K.J. Wright.

The former Pro Bowler has played his entire ten-year career thus far with the Seattle Seahawks. Last year the 31-year old defender accrued a respectable 86 total tackles, two sacks, and ten pass deflections while playing all 16 games for the Seahawks. The veteran defender has highlighted his durability throughout his career as well and has started at least 15 games in six of his past seven seasons in the league.

Considering the extensive injury of the teams’ starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and the relatively young nature of their linebacking core Wright would both provide a dependable option for the team at the position while also, like Alex Smith, bringing value with his experience. Vander Esch has never started more than 11 games in his three-year career with Dallas.

Dallas Cowboys Solidified Safety but are they Done? - John Williams, Inside the Star

The Cowboys may be done at safety for now, or they could get even more help.

First, they added Keanu Neal, who projects to give them snaps at weakside linebacker as well as strong safety. Then they signed Jaron Kearse, who looks to contribute as a backup to Donovan Wilson and give them some special teams snaps as well. Then the Dallas Cowboys brought in Damontae Kazee to be their free safety.

And now they have a depth chart at safety that looks pretty good if Kazee is able to bounce back from his season-ending injury from 2020.

With Donovan Wilson, Keanu Neal, and Jaylon Kearse able to take snaps at strong safety and Damontae Kazee and Reggie Robinson currently on the depth chart at free safety, the Cowboys look solid at the position. There’s also been speculation about using Jourdan Lewis some at safety.

But are they done?

5 things to know about new Cowboys S Damontae Kazee, including his ball-hawking skills - SportsDay Staff, Dallas Morning News

A rundown on the Cowboys new safety, Damontae Kazee.

Reunions

Kazee was taken in the fifth round (149th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 NFL draft, The Falcons head coach at the time was none other than Dallas’ new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Cowboys secondary coach and pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. was his position coach in 2020 as well.

The Cowboys also signed Kazee’s old teammate, former Falcons safety Keanu Neal, who spent his entire career under Quinn before he was fired and last year with Whitt.

So even though the Cowboys will be learning a brand new defense for the second consecutive season, Quinn will have at least two players already familiar with his system.

Ball Hawk

It’s no secret that the Cowboys struggled creating turnovers for a long time. Towards the end of last season, the defense began turning that trend around, and the team ended the year ranked seventh in total takeaways with 23 (10 interceptions and 13 fumbles).

The inability to create turnovers, particularly interceptions in the secondary by safeties is perhaps the greatest reason for the long-time fantasy Cowboys fans have had about bringing Earl Thomas to Dallas.

Kazee may not be Thomas, but he is pretty good at creating takeaways. In 2018 he tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, in 2019 he added 3 more. His ten interceptions over those two season was one interception fewer than entire Cowboys secondary combined during that period.

NFC East QB breakdown: New deals, new faces, higher expectations - ESPN

The Cowboys got their man at QB, but still have work to do.

Are the Cowboys better or worse at QB than last season? Based on what we know right now, they’re worse because they don’t have the security Dalton provided. Gilbert fared well in his one start last season, but that was the only real playing time he has had in his pro career. Is that enough to make the Cowboys feel comfortable? Maybe it is and maybe Prescott will return to full health without any issues. He started the first 69 games of his Cowboys career without any problem. Prescott’s rehab from the compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle is going well, and there is anticipation he will be on the field during the offseason program and ready for training camp.

Three years from now, what will we be saying about the 2021 decisions at QB? The Cowboys made the right move in signing Prescott, but they still didn’t get to a Super Bowl. While the $40 million annual average salary might be too high for some, it’s the price the Cowboys had to pay after Prescott showed uncommon patience in resisting megadeals in 2019 and 2020. After the 2023 season, there will be a whole new round of Prescott contract talks because the Cowboys will not be able to use the franchise tag on him in 2025. Imagine what the price could be by then.

Dallas Cowboys Draft: Scouting 7 Offensive Tackles in 7 Different Rounds - Adithya Prabakaran, Sport DFW

The Cowboys could look at at an offensive tackle in round two of the draft.

Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

Value: Fair

I was hoping a better tackle than Alex Leatherwood would appear at 44. (In all likelihood, someone does) Leatherwood stands at a healthy 6-foot-5, 312 pounds with 34 3/8 inch arms. His body is incredibly well put together and it is evident just how strong he is when he is run blocking. Leatherwood has some of the best measurables in the draft, but his usage of hands and agility in pass protection seemingly make him a lesser sought-after commodity than several other tackles that could hear their name on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Under his offensive coordinator, Leatherwood was asked to block gap and zone blocks. He displays the football IQ to identify his assignments pre-snap and communicate with his offensive line on double teams and combo blocks. A really smart run blocker, his play strength allows him to drive and steers edge and interior defenders away from the ball carrier even if his hands aren’t always in the correct place.

In pass protection, Leatherwood is solid. His solid athletic ability does allow him to reach his set points on time and maintain half-man relationships with his defender, but his adequate agility can cause him to get beat with good upfield burst on speed rushes or on counter moves, also in large part because he is late and inconsistent with his punch timing and location.

Leatherwood’s concerns are technical and are deemed fixable, but it does seem odd that after electing to come back for another season he didn’t improve all that much especially with some of the best coaches in college football?

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