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How this very strong Cowboys secondary unit compares to other groups over the last 30 years

Just how good is the Cowboys secondary?

NFL: DEC 24 Eagles at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have a strong secondary. With some great drafting and clever offseason moves, the team has assembled one of the better units they’ve had in a long while. In fact, it had us wondering just how far back we have to go to remember feeling this good about their defensive backs group.

But before we start strolling through units of the past, let’s run down the main cast of characters we expect to see a lot of this upcoming season. Since the Cowboys love to go with a lot of three-safety looks, we’ll roll with the two starting outside corners, a slot corner, and the three-headed safety monster we have grown accustomed to seeing.

The 2023 team


In his second year in the league, the former Alabama corner hauled in 11 interceptions. He’s already an All-Pro and is coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons. While he has been scrutinized for the plays he doesn’t make, Diggs has a remarkable knack for making plays on the ball. He has more interceptions over the past two years than the entire Las Vegas Raiders football team. With a new contract on the horizon, the Cowboys can lock down one of the top cornerbacks in the league for many years to come.


Speaking of one of the top corners, that has been the title Gilmore has held for most of his career. This five-time Pro Bowler is entering his 12th NFL season but continues to be a consistent defender on the outside. He’s had four Pro Bowl seasons over the past five years with last season with the Colts being the lone omission, however, he still finished with an 81.1 coverage grade (seventh best in the league). The athleticism may not be there at 33 years of age, but he’s such a super-smart player and should help the Cowboys have one of the top CB tandems in the NFL.


This fifth-round pick from little old Sacramento State had quite the rookie season, finishing with five interceptions on the year. After seeing zero defensive snaps in five of his first six games, Bland was thrust into action after Jourdan Lewis got hurt. The rookie started the final seven games of the season playing both inside and outside for the Cowboys and surprisingly turned into the next best thing at cornerback after Diggs. Now, with Gilmore on the roster, Bland can focus solely on the slot corner role, a role he was so masterful in last year, allowing the team to have a very strong starting cornerback group.


Little did we know that Dan Quinn would turn this “just another guy” defensive reserve/special teams contributor into an impact starting safety. Kearse had more starts his first year in Dallas than he did over his first five years in the league combined with both Minnesota and Detroit. Similar to Gilmore, it’s not about athleticism with him. Kearse is a smart player who reacts fast and uses his size to his advantage. While he is neither the best strong safety (that’s Donovan Wilson) nor free safety (that’s Malik Hooker) on the team, he is the most complete safety and it shows up all over the tape.


Another low-cost free agent marvel, Hooker showed what type of player he could be if he could just keep himself on the field. Amazingly, that’s exactly what he’s been able to do in his time in Dallas. In just two seasons with the team, Hooker has played 31 games, which is just five fewer than he had during his entire four years with Indianapolis. Last season, he matched his career high in interceptions (3) and recorded a new career high in tackles (62). He’s the best coverage safety the Cowboys have and continues to be a solid piece to the secondary.


Wilson is everyone’s favorite safety to root for as he’s made more splashes than the opening scene in Jaws. His career has been a little up and down because of missing time with injury and having his share of rollerskate plays on that notoriously bad 2020 unit, but he really put things together last season. Whether it’s sacking, picking, stripping, or just living in the offensive backfield, Wilson has shown that he can do it all. When he smells blood, it’s over. Just when you thought it was safe to run to the left, the Cowboys re-upped on Wilson and he’ll continue his feeding frenzy for several years to come.

These six players make up a very strong secondary group. The Cowboys have even more depth as third-year hybrid DB Israel Mukuamu is expected to contribute as well and they also traded at the draft for Southern Miss corner Eric Scott Jr. The 2021 Day 2 draft group of Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright look on their way out as does the veteran Jourdan Lewis who has one year left on his contract. With a base salary of $4.5 million this year, it’s hard to justify keeping Lewis on the team when he’s buried on the depth chart below so many cheaper and more promising players.

With all that said, just how good is this group? On the latest episode of The Star Seminar, I asked my podcast partner Rabblerousr to go back 30 years, identify the top secondary groups, and then compare them to this current Cowboys roster. Make sure to check it out if you want to hear what we had to say. And also make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network so you do not miss any of our episodes or the other shows that BTB has. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

But today, we’re putting the ball in your court. Which units did you think were the strongest? Let us know in the comments. Also, here is your chance to vote for the options Rabs came up with.

#3 - The 2009 team

Secondary consisted of Terrence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, Ken Hamlin, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Allen Ball


Which secondary group is better?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    The 2009 team
    (35 votes)
  • 96%
    The 2023 team
    (841 votes)
876 votes total Vote Now

#2 - The 1996 team

Secondary consisted of Deion Sanders, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson, George Teague, Brock Marion, and Bill Bates


Which secondary group is better?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    The 1996 team
    (791 votes)
  • 11%
    The 2023 team
    (101 votes)
892 votes total Vote Now

#1 - The 1993 team

Secondary consisted of Kevin Smith, Larry Brown, Darren Woodson, Thomas Everett, James Washington, and Brock Marion


Which secondary group is better?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    The 1993 team
    (470 votes)
  • 47%
    The 2023 team
    (425 votes)
895 votes total Vote Now

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