With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.
But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we conclude the series with the safety position.
What Needs To Go Right: The Cowboys boasted the best trio of safeties in the NFL a season ago with Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson with the good news being that all will be back in 2023. As such vital and versatile pieces in Dan Quinn's defense there is no disputing that those three are what made the Cowboys defense go in 2022 and lead one of the best defenses in the league. Bottom line - don't change a thing here.
Biggest Question: Can they help stop the run? The Cowboys notoriously struggled in stopping the running game a season ago and given how Dan Quinn likes to use his safeties in the box often, this question looms for them just as much as it does the front seven. With a beefed-up interior line thanks to the selection of Mazi Smith in the draft that should help, and in turn helping out the back end.
Battle to Watch: Fourth safety spot: Once you get past the top three players at safety the Cowboys have, their options begin to thin out in terms of experience. Israel Mukuamu is someone who could take a leap after playing in spurts in 2022, followed by Markquese Bell who primarily played on special teams. Those two are right there with Sheldrick Redwine who has the most experience between the three.
Bold Prediction: Donovan Wilson will lead the team in tackles again. Wilson was an atom bomb for the Cowboys in 2022, leading them in total tackles with 101 and blowing up what felt like every play. With a new deal under his belt this offseason there's little reason to think he can't do it again.
Biggest Challenge: Keeping Jayron Kearse healthy. Kearse battled his share of nagging injuries in 2022 that limited him to just 14 of 17 possible regular season games. He's one of, if not the unquestioned leader defensively for the Cowboys with his energy and compassion on the field and keeping him upright will go a long way in repeating their defensive success in 2023.
Key Stat: 240 - The Cowboys trio of safeties combined for 240 total tackles last season, with each of them placing in the top six (Wilson 1st, Kearse 3rd, Hooker 6th). Dan Quinn loves to move them around in order to give different looks while also getting them involved inside the box as well.