We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 27.
Defensive Snaps: 922 (80%)
Tackle for Loss: 7
Defensive Stops: 31
Pass Breakup: 5
QB Rate Allowed: 70.4
The Cowboys have themselves a fine looking secondary!!!— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) March 14, 2023
Jayron Kearse was highly recruited out of high school and he finally accepted a scholarship to Clemson in 2013, where he would play safety. His first season saw him miss the opener due to a shoulder injury but he still managed to play in 12 games and made 55 tackles, four interceptions (led the team) and one forced fumble. The next year saw him win the starting role at strong safety and he played in all 13 games. He finished third on the team in tackles (61), sacks (3) and pass breakups (5). He again led the team with two interceptions.
His final year at Clemson, Kearse started playing more physical and with more confidence. He helped the team get to the National Championship, but lost to Alabama in a closely contested game. He ended the year with 87 tackles (6.5 for loss), one interception and six pass breakups (third most on team). He earned first-team All-ACC honors for his role on Clemson’s much talked about defense, and declared for the draft.
After a poor combine, Kearse saw his stock fall and he would tumble in the 2016 NFL Draft until the end of the third day. He didn’t see much action during his rookie season for Minnesota until Week 7 and finished the year with six tackles as a safety and seven tackles on special teams.
His next season was just as uneventful as he recorded 13 tackles. The next two season for the Vikings he played more, some at safety and some as a slot corner. He recorded 60 tackles in those two years, even making his first NFL interception, which coincidentally was against Dallas. But at the end of the 2019 season he found himself on the move to an NFC North rival, the Detroit Lions.
His time at Detroit was turbulent when he missed the first three games due to a violation of NFL substance-abuse policy. Then he missed the Week 16 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leaving the hotel room without permission and being late to a road game, which violated the team rules. He left Detroit with 56 tackles, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.
He finally got to Dallas and found an immediate role under Dan Quinn’s watchful eye. He was one of three safeties that made an immediate change to how fans had thought of the Cowboys safety corps, and he had a huge breakout in 2021. Kearse was named as the team’s starting strong safety, starting in 15 games. He recorded a career-high 101 tackles which led the team, and had nine tackles for loss which was second-most. He also made 10 pass breakups which was fourth-most and two interceptions. Fans were pleased with his contribution and his ability to take tight ends out of the game.
Last year Kearse was used more in rotation but his skills as a tight end eraser was still important and key to the defense’s success. He still made 77 tackles (third-most for Dallas), seven tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups and an interception.
2023 Roster Projection:
We can and should expect much the same from Kearse as he continues to be deployed in his strong safety role for Dan Quinn and his defense. Kearse has made his mark for Dallas and everyone feels certain in what he provides as a safety. His size and length has been used effectively in Dallas and his long strides cover a lot of ground when in coverage. Along with being a consistent tackler, this has been what has made him such an effective defender versus tight ends these last couple of seasons.
Projected 2023 Stats:
Tackle for Loss: 8
Defensive Stops: 32
Pass Breakup: 8
The Big Question:
Has Jayron Kearse reached his ceiling or should we expect more? Answer below in the comments.