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Finding Byron Jones’ Best Position Is Biggest Piece Of The DB Puzzle
INDIANAPOLIS – Try to figure out one aspect of the Cowboys’ secondary, and the rest of it becomes even murkier.
That’s not surprising in February. It’s just a reality of this early part of the offseason – before NFL clubs have had a chance to address their needs in free agency or re-stock their roster in the draft.
But for now, the news that the Cowboys might be moving Byron Jones to cornerback certainly leaves them with questions about the rest of their secondary – particularly at safety.
“You know, that’s a work in progress,” said team executive vice president Stephen Jones. “Obviously, the safeties that are there we’re looking at, between Kavon and Heath and Xavier — those guys are there. But if we move him down, then obviously we’re thin there and that becomes a position of need, if you will.”
Jones was careful not to directly state that Jones is changing positions, but it’s been a move that has been suspected for much of the offseason. The Cowboys hired former Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard as their new secondary coach, and he brings with him a history of working with big, lengthy corners – a description that suits the 6’1, 205-pound Jones quite well.
“Obviously, Kris — his background in Seattle points to big corners. But I’d say we like big corners, too, if you can find them,” Jones said.
There’s plenty to like about the thought of joining Jones to the Cowboys’ trio of young corners in Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. But as has been pointed out, it would leave the Cowboys with little in the way of proven safeties. Stephen Jones alluded to the fact that this defense employs players with position flexibility, but the bottom line is that a position shuffle makes a compelling case for safety as a need – either during the draft or free agency.
“We did draft guys, especially Chidobe can play back there. But we also like Chidobe as a corner, probably more so than we do a safety,” Jones said. “Those are all things we’re going to be massaging and figuring out what we should do. But I do think it’s easier to find a safety than a corner.”
Speaking of corners, this entire conversation has a forgotten figure in Orlando Scandrick. The veteran cornerback suffered two transverse process fractures in his back in Week 13 of last season, and he missed the last four games of the year.
The presence of Awuzie, Brown and Lewis on the roster already raises questions about Scandrick’s future. Adding Jones to the mix would only amplify them.
Stephen Jones was asked about Scandrick on Tuesday – whether the Cowboys would consider parting ways with him, whether through a trade or an outright release. His answer was evasive, but it did acknowledge it’s a question the Cowboys are trying to answer.
“Those are things that we take a look at,” he said. “We haven't made that decision, made any decision final at this point. Those are all things that go into the mix.”
That’s pretty much what the Cowboys are left with at this point of the offseason – a mixture of questions. There’s also the issue of whether the front office will pick up the fifth-year option on Byron Jones’ contract, regardless of what position he’ll play.
Stephen Jones didn’t have an answer for that question, though he was sure to say he didn’t view that as an indictment on the young defensive back’s career to this point.
“I think he’s been effective for us. I think he’s one of the best in the business at covering tight ends, and that’s a big deal in our game right now,” he said. “I think he’s been efficient. It’s just finding his optimal spot.”
At the risk of over simplifying things, finding Jones’ optimal spot should go a long way in shaping the rest of the Dallas secondary. How the Cowboys put that puzzle together is bound to play out in the next two months.