After making the change to corner in 2018, Byron Jones quickly became the best defensive back for the Cowboys.
Even with his injury in 2019, Jones allowed a 53.6 catch percentage (14th at his position). His departure left a hole that won’t be easily replaced in this young secondary that Dallas has built.
Could this secondary actually be better this season without their best defensive back from 2019?
It’s true that caliber of a player doesn’t come around very often, but Dallas has elected to attack this problem in a variety of ways.
First, Dallas has sought out a new defensive staff that brings Maurice Linguist as the secondary coach. The 35 year old has been coaching since 2007, and most recently with Texas A&M over the past two years. He’s made a name for himself by becoming a coach that teaches teams about getting turnovers. Obviously this has been an issue for the Cowboys over the past two seasons where they totaled 16 interceptions in 34 games. This past year, Dallas tied their worst season in team history with only 7 interceptions under coach Kris Richard.
When asked about the lack of turnovers in Dallas, Linguist gave this reply that will breathe faith back into Cowboys’ fans.
Everything begins with a mental approach. It has to consume you, you have to be obsessed with it. So that’s going to be a big piece on how we build our unit on the back end.”
With some added turnovers on the season, this Cowboys’ defense could elevate the number on the win column. This was a problem for even Byron as he only posted two interceptions over his five years in Dallas.
Another solution the Cowboys have implemented has been to add players via both the draft and free agency. Throughout this process, Dallas has added Darryl Worley, Maurice Canady, Trevon Diggs, and Reggie Robinson II. These players come to battle it out with guys that were all starters at some point last year. The Cowboys made sure to find guys that are strong willed and are ready to prove their worth.
This solution brings the attitude of Iron sharpens, iron which will lead to tough battles during training camp, and preseason. Anthony Brown received a three year contract back in March, but that doesn’t solidify his spot as the #1 corner. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are both at the end of their contracts this season, which means they’ll be forced to surpass their prior years to earn a second contract in Dallas.
These players won’t come in right away playing at a level as high as Byron Jones, but the depth has significantly improved. The competition will be fierce for the starting jobs, but in the end the defense will be the one to benefit from it.
Last solution that comes to mind is one that may slip past most.
The added talent on the defensive line, both with coaches and players, will play a large role for the secondary.
The new defensive staff meant Rod Marinelli would no longer be in Dallas, which makes way for a new face. New defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, helped the Redskins to become a top 10 team in sacks over the past 3 years. His techniques will help put pressure on quarterbacks causing enough chaos that should lead to more interceptions in the secondary. Having a veteran coach with new ideas could be the spark this defense needs to become great.
Much like the secondary, the defensive line has also received a boost that will ultimately end up being in Dallas’ favor. To go along with Tomsula, Dallas has added veterans Gerald McCoy, and Dontari Poe to the interior defensive line. The draft also brought along Neville Gallimore who has much potential waiting to be unleashed. Hiding in the background quietly is former team captain, Tyrone Crawford, who looks to bounce back from his injury back in 2019.
The defensive line looks to be revamped and ready to wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks. With the new additions, this position group will have a great hand in making the secondary successful. A strong front line allows the defensive backs to make to play their roles at their best.
Dallas may not have replaced Byron with a top tier corner, but they’ve made plenty of moves to cover themselves.
By the end of the 2020 season Byron Jones will be a nothing more than a memory, while Dallas will be able to look to a more promising future in the secondary.
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