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CB: Will Any Corners Be Converted To Safety?
The Cowboys lost Byron Jones very early into free agency but since then, have added a variety of veterans, special teams contributors and a pair of rookies that could play right away.
By Jonny Auping May 15, 2020

With the NFL Draft completed and free agency at least slowing down here as the summer approaches, it's time to take a closer look at each position. Each day, we will dissect a different aspect of each position, ranging from position battles to under-the-radar players to simply answering questions that have yet to be resolved.

Today, we'll continue the series with the cornerback position.

Need To Figure Out

Will Any Corners Be Converted To Safety?

Need To Figure Out

The Cowboys need to figure out just about everything at cornerback, from who's starting to who's adaptable to who will even make the final roster.

Dallas is blessed with a number of intriguing talents at cornerback and cursed with no one who stands out in May as an absolute sure thing. There's been a lot of talk about switching certain cornerbacks to safety, and that might be necessary to justify keeping players on the roster. But the fact is that Daryl Worley is the only cornerback on the roster who has played an NFL snap at safety. First-round draft pick Trevon Diggs played safety as a freshman at Alabama, but there's no question the team hopes to develop him into an elite cornerback.

Chidobe Awuzie is the player who may be asked to adapt in order to earn his playing time or even his place on the roster. If he can show the versatility needed to play both safety and cornerback he gives the Cowboys a number of options with who they can put on the field on defense. But if he's unable to meet that challenge, it's possible that Dallas would consider trading him before he hits free agency in 2021.

With no Pro Bowl experience at cornerback and a number of questions to be answered, it's probably not a stretch to say that the Cowboys' secondary could give up a number of big plays next season. But considering the elite offense they plan on fielding, Dallas could mitigate those plays with something that they've failed to produce for much of the past five seasons: turnovers. So perhaps all the things that need to be figured out will be answered by which players show the most aggressive playmaking. Getting the ball back in the hands of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will be the number one goal for this defense and much of that will fall on the cornerbacks.

Ready To Compete

Who Will Cover NFL’s Elite Receivers?

Ready To Compete

Competition is going to happen at cornerback all across the board as roles need to be established at the position. But the most obvious question is who will step up as starters on the outside, and who will prove to be the primary cornerback guarding the game's most elite receivers? Who will cover Julio Jones? Or Odell Beckham Jr? Or DeAndre Hopkins? And those are all just in the first six weeks of the Cowboys season.

The most intriguing prospect is Trevon Diggs, the Cowboys' second round pick out of Alabama. He has all the tools that you want in a cornerback prospect, and considering the talent available when Dallas selected him, the Cowboys' front office surely believes that he can develop into a starter capable of keeping up with Pro Bowl receivers. But will he be ready for that role as a rookie?

Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay also seemed particularly pleased with the drafting of fourth-round pick Reggie Robinson, who has already expressed an enthusiasm for contributing to special teams. But Robinson was certainly impressive as a cornerback at Tulsa where he had four interceptions last season. Is there a world where the Cowboys would start two rookie cornerbacks on the outside? Or will they ultimately feel more comfortable with two cornerbacks from a previous draft class in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis? Or, if none of those players stand out, recent additions Daryl Worley and Maurice Canady would happily run with any opportunity afforded to them.

Don’t Forget About…

Looming Free Agency For Awuzie And Lewis

Don't Forget About…

Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, both acquired in the 2017 NFL Draft, will become free agents after this coming season. What role that plays, if any, in how they are evaluated and utilized in 2020 is difficult to sort out.

Lewis developed into a fan favorite over the past few years as a playmaker on a Cowboys defense that has at times been starved for turnovers. His quickness and intuitive ability to be at the right place at the right moment have provided the Cowboys momentum in important games recently. He did that while largely playing in nickel formations, and it's to-be-determined if he could and should transition into a role on the outside. Will he, like Orlando Scandrick before him, have a long career in Dallas or will one of the Cowboys' recent draft picks ultimately make him expendable?

Awuzie, on the other hand, was picked on quite a bit last year by opposing quarterbacks despite having shown the abilities at times over his career to be a successful cornerback. If the Cowboys have too many cornerbacks on the roster, Awuzie may prove to be the easiest one to move in a trade during or after training camp. One would think, however, that a player or two would need to have stepped up in an impressive manner in the interim for the Cowboys to feel confident parting ways with a cornerback who has significant NFL experience.

Anthony Brown is also a player that fans shouldn't forget about. Dallas re-signed him this offseason, which proves that it was more than just Jason Garrett who appreciated his abilities. He has started games at cornerback since his rookie season in 2016. They've relied on him before and they're unafraid to do it again.

What We Know

Cowboys Have 8 Corners Likely To Compete

What We Know

We might know less about the cornerback situation than any other position. All we really know is that there are eight intriguing cornerbacks on the roster right now who all offer different things to the position. Who plays and how often is just about anyone's guess. So, we know that there will be competitions for established roles or even spots on the roster.

Fortunately, we know that players like Reggie Robinson, CJ Goodwin, and Maurice Canady have proven to be willing and notable special teams contributors. And while it might be a good problem to have, their special teams value might actually make it more difficult to make decisions on who makes the final roster at the end of training camp.

We also know that new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan values turnovers in his secondary. After his hiring, he told the media that quarterbacks aren't afraid of defenders who deflect the ball. They're afraid of defenders who catch it. We know that over their careers Anthony Brown has four interceptions, Jourdan Lewis has four interceptions, and Chidobe Awuzie has three interceptions. But none of them has stuck out as a potential number one cornerback who can defend the league's most elite receivers every single week. We know that second-round pick Trevon Diggs' physical tools and time at an NFL-ready program like Alabama suggest the potential to fill that role, but when and if he'll reach that potential is very much an unknown.

What's New

How Cowboys Regrouped After Losing Jones

What's New?

The Dolphins lulled Byron Jones away from Dallas with a contract that made him the highest paid cornerback in the NFL, and the Cowboys regrouped by infusing youth and enticing potential into the position. There's certainly a likelihood that Dallas won't have a cornerback on the roster in 2020 with the established talent of Jones, but Cowboy fans have to be intrigued by the potential of their additions in regards to something Jones could never quite master in Dallas: turnovers. Jones recorded just two interceptions over five seasons in the Cowboys' secondary.

The player who will be given the most immediate opportunity to fill Jones' shoes is likely to be second-round pick Trevon Diggs. The younger brother of Buffalo Bills star receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon started two seasons at cornerback under Nick Saban at Alabama and recorded four interceptions over that time. The Cowboys also seem particularly satisfied with the fourth-round selection of Reggie Robinson out of Tulsa. Robinson recorded four interceptions last season--along with being an essential playmaker at every aspect of special teams--but the 6-1 cornerback says that he considers himself a physical press cornerback who welcomed comparisons to the likes of Richard Sherman and Xavier Rhodes.

Dallas also signed fourth-year cornerback Maurice Canady, who most notably played with the Baltimore Ravens previously. Canady was likely signed for special teams and cornerback depth, but he proved in Baltimore that he was capable of stepping into a larger role for short stints. Bucky Brooks called him a "dependable tackler" and a "smart player with intriguing potential." The Cowboys also signed veteran Daryl Worley, a versatile cornerback who also filled in at safety for the Raiders last season.

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