FRISCO, Texas –It's a year of new experiences for Byron Jones – across a variety of different sports, as it turns out.
On the first day of the Cowboys' offseason program, Jones and Jeff Heath also dropped by Ford Center for a friendly skills competition against members of the Dallas Rattlers, the Major League Lacrosse franchise that's set to open its season on April 29 at the Cowboys' facility.
Views of the Dallas Cowboys football and Dallas Rattlers lacrosse skills challenge at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Byron Jones and Jeff Heath of the Cowboys, with Christian Carson-Banister, Joe Gillis and Zack Greer of the Rattlers. (Photos by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)
Before Jones began plying his skills at lacrosse, though, he was sure to introduce himself as a Cowboys cornerback, officially confirming a transition that had been supposed for several months dating back to the hire of Kris Richard as the Cowboys' secondary coach.
"I think it'll be a good move for me and the team," Jones said. "As soon as Richard came in, that's what he was talking about, he wanted to move me to corner. We had a discussion and we made the move."
Jones is entering his fourth season with the Cowboys, and his position isn't the only question about his future. As a first-round draft pick in 2015, he has a team option for a fifth year on his contract – an option the Cowboys must pick up within the next month if they want to secure his services beyond the 2018 season.
If they do decide to pick up that option, it will be without seeing him work much at corner – where Richard is undoubtedly hopeful that his 6-0, 205-pound frame and top-tier speed can help him excel outside the numbers.
"I'm a longer corner. I've got good speed and athleticism, and I think I can use that on the outside," Jones said
The obvious comparison, given Richard's history in Seattle, is 6-3 All-Pro Richard Sherman, whose ability at cornerback helped define the Seahawks' defense for much of the past decade.
Jones said it's not his goal to emulate any single cornerback, but to approach the position from his own skillset. It shouldn't feel too unfamiliar. The former Connecticut standout played some corner in college, and the Cowboys tried him at various corner spots during his rookie season.
To get the improvement he wants to see, Jones said he's been keying in on a few big aspects of the position throughout the offseason.
"Technique. You're out there by yourself, you're on an island. Quick steps, no more long striding, and just going up and attacking the ball when it's in the air," he said. "That's one thing that's frustrated me over my career, is not making the plays I wanted to – in terms of interceptions. That's been my focus in the offseason, that's what I've been working on. I think it'll translate into OTAs and training camp."