George Iloka and HaHa Clinton-Dix have proven in recent years that not all Cowboys free agency signings are locks to make the roster. Could there be a third straight safety who fails to make the cut? ESPN seems to think so.
Kearse signed with Dallas in late March. The Clemson product was a seventh-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2016. The nephew of former Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse and the cousin of Raiders ex-cornerback Phillip Buchanon, Kearse seemingly had the DNA to make some noise in a pro defense.
But over four seasons, Kearse got just five starts with the Vikings. He signed a one-year deal with Detroit in 2020 and eventually started seven games, but missed the first portion of the season due to a substance-abuse suspension. Following the regular season, he spent a few weeks on the Ravens practice squad during their postseason run.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 215 pounds, the 27-year-old has the size that new coordinator Dan Quinn openly covets in his defensive backs. But so do many of the guys Kearse will be competing against in camp.
As Archer points out, Thompson has tenure and a relationship with the staff. And the rookie Mukuamu was taken because the Dallas coaches clearly feel there is some level of untapped potential there. With Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee projected by most to be the starting safeties, it could well come down to making a big special teams play in a fortuitous situation that determines whether the bubble underneath Kearse bursts.
Jayron Kearse enjoyed a productive, albeit minimal, role with the Vikings for a few years before a quiet stint with the Lions. Now he’s joining a Cowboys defense in big need of improved play, although it’s unclear what his role might be on this roster.
For Jayron Kearse, being able to make the 53-man roster as a special teamer and experienced backup is a strong possibility. Special teams is often key to making the bottom of the roster and that’s how Kearse has survived in the NFL to this point. He was a core player for the Vikings’ speciat teams units from 2016-2019.
With Kazee and Donovan Wilson projected to be the starters as of now, Kearse would have to pull off an upset to claim one of those jobs. He could very well be the next man up should something negative happens with Kazee or Wilson, but for now he and Darian Thompson are the experienced backups.
Surprises certainly can happen. Who would’ve thought that Thompson would end up starting in Week One last year after Dallas signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix? The latter didn’t even make the roster in 2020 after being one of the bigger names signed in free agency.
It doesn’t hurt Kearse, and could be why Dallas signed him to begin with, that his unique size is a favorite trait for Dan Quinn. Going back to his days with Seattle, Quinn has often wanted and worked with defensive backs who play with size and strength.
The Cowboys defense was dismal for much of the 2020 season, and their run defense was especially putrid. In an effort to correct that in 2021, the Cowboys added journeyman defensive lineman Brent Urban, who could play a huge role in turning things around.
Urban does a good job of absorbing double teams and still being able to shed them and make plays against the run. That’s a very important trait for an interior defensive lineman to have because it doesn’t allow centers and guards to reach the second level and put a body on linebackers, allowing them to roam and make plays. Also, it gives defensive ends the chance to make plays when runs bounce outside.
The former Virginia Cavalier is ready to resume his run-stuffer role in Dallas, which he explained earlier this offseason.
“I do a good job being stout up front, taking on double teams and doing the dirty work to allow those guys to run free,” Urban said, via the team’s website. “That’s part of the reason I came here. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to continue to do that and help elevate this defense and allow the athletes to be athletes.”
Every new season brings with it the opportunity for certain players to stand out from the crowd and catch everyone by surprise. Dalton Schultz and Donovan Wilson enjoyed breakout seasons last year, among others, but who could be next in 2021?
This one came down to CeeDee Lamb and Randy Gregory. I think both have the opportunity to have a big year. Since Lamb already had a nice rookie season, I’m giving Gregory my official vote. With Aldon Smith no longer on the roster, Gregory is in position to be Dallas’ starting right edge defender with DeMarcus Lawrence handling those duties on the left. Considering that Gregory has been suspended for more games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy than he’s played in, he’s become somewhat of a forgotten man around the league.
But at 28, he still has plenty of talent to possibly lead the Cowboys in sacks and quarterback pressures. In a recent conference call with reporters, Gregory sounded like someone who is in a great place on and off the field. And considering the former second-round pick is in the final year of his contract, there’s even more motivation to put together his best season. — Jon Machota
The Cowboys spent most of their offseason working to upgrade the defense while continuing to rehab their injured stars on offense, and as a result are entering the 2021 season with a lot of optimism. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still improve in some areas.
It appears that the starting role at center is being handed to Tyler Biadasz on a silver platter. That’s despite the 2020 fourth rounder starting just four games as a rookie, only one of which featured starting quarterback Dak Prescott under center.
Outside of seventh round rookie Matt Farniok, Biadasz has no real challenger for the starting center spot in Dallas this summer. We’d love to see that change with the team bringing in a player talented enough to really compete for the job.
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