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Secondary Special

Dallas Cowboys free safety Barry Church (42) congratulates cornerback Brandon Carr (39) on his pass breakup of Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (15) in the second half at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Sunday, October 12, 2014. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The Cowboys’ already struggling defense has taken a couple hits as we approach the new season. Dallas lost Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox during free agency this offseason. After drafting three cornerbacks and a safety, the youth movement in the secondary could provide a solid core for the future. The Cowboys signed Nolan Carroll III from Philadelphia, who has not been a very good player in recent years, so the door is wide open for these rookies to make a push for starting jobs.

Mo Claiborne

Second round pick Chidobe Awuzie, a cornerback out of Colorado, seems NFL ready coming straight out of school. With a solid build and a diverse skill set, Awuzie looks set to make an impact once given the opportunity. In 2016, he had 65 tackles, 4 sacks, and one interception. While the low interception number may come as concerning, his twelve passes broken up show that he can play a ball in the air, meaning interceptions naturally will come with increased practice. The four sacks is definitely encouraging, seeing as it gives Rod Marinelli a pass rushing threat from the outside.

Chidobe Awuzie

Third round pick Jourdan Lewis seems a bit different to me. In just ten games in 2016, he recorded a discouraging 25 tackles, to go along with just two interceptions. As a slightly undersized corner, Lewis has decent ball skills and very good athleticism, but again the 25 tackles are just very difficult to ignore. After watching tape on him, it appears that he relied heavily on being an “ankle-tackler”, shying away from contact when it could be avoided. Fortunately, it seems as though his ability to read a ball in the air and make a play has the potential to be a big help to this secondary that constantly struggles to secure interceptions.

Jourdan Lewis.jpg

Sixth round pick Xavier Woods is easily my favorite player Dallas drafted this year. The safety out of Louisiana Tech is a beast that is going to, in my opinion, step right into the role that J.J. Wilcox had, just an improved version. In 2016, Woods had 89 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 interceptions. Woods loves contact, and his highlight tapes will show that he has no problem laying out receivers that are willing to challenge him. He is a very good open field tackler and he dishes out violent hits to anyone that goes across the middle on him. Whether it’s a big tight end or a small wide out, Woods goes at everyone the same: aggressively but disciplined. Another key element of Woods’ game is his ability to knock the ball loose from a runner. In the highlight tape below, he forces at least three fumbles from either ripping or punching the ball from players’ hands.

Other Sixth round pick, Marquez White, out of Florida State, had very similar stats to Jourdan Lewis. He too totaled 25 tackles and two interceptions in 2016, also in just 10 games. I hope I get proven wrong here, but White looks like a lazy, penalty-committing, waste of a draft pick. He doesn’t shed blocks, he lets plays happen right in front of him, his coverage is weak, and he has no motor. At times it even looks like he doesn’t want to be out on the field. His combine was incredibly disappointing, showing severe flaws in his footwork that appear almost too bad to fix at this point in his career.

Marquez White.jpg

As a whole, this draft should prove to be a successful one for the Cowboys. Hopefully, we will see at least two of the selected players develop into key assets of the defense within the early goings of their career. Obviously I’d love to see every draft pick turn into a great player, however, unfortunately they can’t all work out in the end. Pre-season should be a great indicator of what to expect from these young guys, but in the meantime, let’s all look forward to Cowboys football!

 

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