Byron Jones' Rookie Transition Includes Some Safety Reps, Too

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys coaching staff has given first-round pick Byron Jones plenty to digest during the organized team activities. He's worked at both right and left cornerback, moved inside to the slot in sub-packages, and most recently – as team officials acknowledged on draft night as a possibility – he's gotten reps at safety in the third and final week of OTAs, too.

Keep in mind it's early June, and these voluntary workouts give coaches a chance to tinker with rotations and work players at different spots. For instance, Brandon Carr, a three-year starter at left cornerback, has flipped with Orlando Scandrick and gotten some reps on the right side.

Versatility was among Jones' best traits when the Cowboys selected him at No. 27 overall last month. He started 20 games at free safety as a college freshman and sophomore before moving to corner his final two years at Connecticut.

"You've got to be a leader on the defense," Jones said about playing safety. "You've got to understand where your coverage is, where your help is, and you've got to understand some linebacker fits as well. Sometimes you're down in the box and you need to know if you're in an A gap or B gap. So it's an entire understanding of the defense, not just one side."

The Cowboys have said Jones could eventually move to safety full time if they feel good about their cornerback depth going into the season. One key could be a healthy Mo Claiborne, the 2012 first-round pick who's still rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon suffered last fall.

No matter where Jones winds up playing this season, he's using this time to adjust to NFL speed and tempo. Although the pads won't come on until training camp, the staff has been pleased with his diligence and progression in the non-contact work.

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"Most recently in college he played corner, so we started him there. But he's shown that he can do some other things as well," head coach Jason Garrett said last week. "He has experience. This isn't a projection based on his physical ability. He played safety in college. He's done both of these things. So I don't think he looks uncomfortable anywhere we put him.

"But again, we're trying to settle him in and find what the right spot is for him as we go forward."

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