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Cornerback play will be the biggest deciding factor in the Cowboys’ defensive performance

Talent at the receivers position is at an all-time high, which means that reliable corners are at an all-time premium

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Quick — think fast! When was the last time you remember the Cowboys having an elite cover corner to match up with some of the game’s preeminent receiving threats? Stumped? So was I when the question first came to my mind.

One-on-one stalwarts on the outside have been a privilege that has come few and far between for the team, and that’s been a huge reason for their woes in passing containment. PrimeTime Neon Deion, Everson Walls and the ageless wonder Terence Newman are names who fill out the ‘Boys history book as some of the great corners of yesteryear. And more recently, Byron Jones was in the process of developing into a feared cover-man for Dallas before receiving a massive lump sum from Miami in free agency.

Long-term regency and dependable corner play are two assets that Dallas has been unable to preserve in unison, and that theme holds true today. The squad battened down the hatches in a number of key areas that had loose ends on defense by bolstering its backline with safeties like Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse, the linebacking corp with the likes of Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal, and the defensive line with a number of hungry potbellied men ready to chew up territory.

The one area that remains an emboldened question mark is one that Dallas was absolutely thrashed in last season: corner. The squad released its depth chart shortly following the draft, listing second-year man Trevon Diggs as the front-runner for RCB, while Kelvin Joseph led the charge on the left side, although reports are that Anthony Brown may actually be the guy there. Former Michigan Wolverine Jourdan Lewis was the starting slot corner.

Diggs is only projected to ascend upwards after a solid rookie showing in which he posted three interceptions, and 58 combined tackles. He’ll have a haul to carry on his shoulders as he’s tasked with being the lead dog at the position. In just year two, most of Diggs’ attention will have to be directed towards improving his game.

Lewis, meanwhile, has played well enough to earn a contract extension (a three-year, $13.5 million deal) at the Star, but he was never quite able to take over full control of the team’s “shutdown” alpha role. And with Brown, what you see is what get.

Diggs has shown inklings of the maturation and skill needed to grasp such an important title, and Dallas is hoping Kelvin Joseph will unleash that same productivity in his long-term future. As of right now though, the squad’s coming up with nothing but goose eggs in the “shutdown corner” department. And until that changes, opposing offenses will continue to beat up on that glaring weakness.

We’ve seen a recurring theme follow many of the recent Super Bowl champs, each has laid claim to possession of a top-notch talent to keep opponent receivers at bay.

Richard Sherman ignited the Legion of Boom’s treachery for the Seahawks, while Chris Harris and Aqib Talib anchored a Broncos defense that’s been recognized as one of the best in recent memory. Malcolm Butler was THE difference in Super Bowl XLIX, and the importance of Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting to the Bucs’ winning habits cannot be overlooked.

The Cowboys need a reliable havoc-wreaking force on the outside, and until they get one, they’ll continue to only scratch the surface of their full defensive potential.