Going into his sixth NFL season, Anthony Brown has become the grizzled veteran in the defensive backs room in Dallas. While he’s not the oldest corner on the Cowboys roster, he does have the longest tenure with the team, thanks in large part to his ability to play both inside and out in coverage. Despite this versatility, however, Brown’s roster spot may be in jeopardy in 2021.
Throughout the early portion of camp, Brown has played predominantly on the outside with Trevon Diggs. Jourdan Lewis, meanwhile, was given the first crack at covering the slot before a hamstring injury sidelined him early in camp. Into the void stepped Maurice Canady, whose impact has been undeniable, providing several athletic plays —most notably, that interception of Matthew Stafford during Dallas’s live scrimmage against the LA Rams.
And then there are rookies Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright, whom Dallas drafted 44th and 99th respectively in this year’s draft. Both have played well thus far, though Joseph did struggle a bit in the Cowboys’ 19-16 preseason loss at Arizona.
Both rooks have good size—especially Wright at 6’4— but each is raw and will require additional seasoning. Before the draft, Wright was graded as a seventh-round prospect by Dane Brugler despite possessing 4.47 speed and a 33-inch arm length. A perfect fit for Dan Quinn’s defense but a bit of a project nevertheless.
Over the past two seasons, Brown has missed a total of 13 games. He’s currently in the second year of a three-year deal that will pay him a total of $5.75 million. Still, his struggles, be they in coverage or with regard to his health, remain a red flag. Were Joseph to beat out Brown for the starting job, the veteran’s versatility would have allowed him to slide inside as the slot corner, but Canady’s tremendous camp is instead pushing Brown to the edge of the roster bubble. Keep in mind, Jourdan Lewis is also still fighting for his job and can prove capable in reserve behind Canady.
The reworked Dallas secondary is building around bigger corners under Quinn and may not find itself as dependent on Brown’s versatility as past incarnations. If Brown is unable to hold down a starting job in 2021, Dallas may opt to let the young bucks run so they can save a little cash and use it to address other deficiencies on the roster, such as the depth at offensive line.
Brown has been a polarizing figure to Cowboys fans for years now but he has been a valuable resource at times. Still, Lewis’s new contract and the drafting of two corners in the first three rounds don’t bode well for Brown unless he can step up his play moving forward.
In limited action during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, Brown struggled. Against the Cardinals in Dallas’s second preseason game, he was better but Wright and Joseph continued in their growth. That’s not a favorable trend for Brown’s future.