FRISCO, Texas – It must be the offseason when you start comparing a high-jumping, super-versatile athletic defensive back to a massive left tackle who hasn’t played with the team in nearly 10 years.
But the more I think about what the Cowboys are trying to do with Byron Jones, I can’t help but drift back 15 years ago, maybe even to the date, to a similar situation that certainly panned out for all parties.
In 2003, Bill Parcells took over as head coach, and needless to say, he changed just about everything in the building. From the way the practices were held, to the signs on the wall, to the temperatures in the training room and, of course, to the personnel.
When asked in one of his early offseason press conferences to address some of his top priorities, I was stunned that Parcells actually answered the question. He told the media that re-signing Flozell Adams was sitting right at the top of his agenda list.
We were all stunned. Not just that he admitted it, but the fact he considered Adams to be that much of a priority, especially after the previous four years had been somewhat underwhelming to that point.
Adams had been a projected first-round pick who dropped all the way into the second round, where the Cowboys took him with the 37th selection. He played guard right away to get him on the field but eventually switched to left tackle.
While the entire offense was stagnant in his time with the Cowboys, who started seven quarterbacks in his first four seasons, Adams was anything but a dominant left tackle.
So in 2003, most people assumed the Cowboys would either let Adams walk in free agency, or try to get him back at a minimal contract.
Parcells comes in … the Cowboys give him the franchise tag.
What? This guy? For what? Well, Parcells had a vision. He knew 6-7, 320-pound left tackles don’t grow on trees, and he felt like with better coaching, Adams could be something.
He was. Flozell made the Pro Bowl in five of the next six years and ended his time as one of the best left tackles the Cowboys have ever had.
So, let’s fast-forward to now.
I can’t help but wonder if Jones could be in the same boat here. Let me be the first to admit that I haven’t really been correct in my assessment of him as a player. When he was a cornerback, I thought he needed to be moved to safety. After last year, I thought he probably needed to be a cornerback.
So who knows where his best spot will be, but the Cowboys are at least giving him another shot at the cornerback position.
But maybe things will be different now.
I’m not calling new secondary coach Kris Richard the next coming of Parcells, but he does come here highly respected. He was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator when they made it to two straight Super Bowls and was the creator of the LOB (Legion of Boom) secondary.
It’s no secret Richard prefers bigger cornerbacks. He talked about it this past weekend, mentioning how length, size and bulk at the line of scrimmage makes it difficult for receivers to figure out where they want to go. It’s all about timing, so Richard figures the more trouble receivers have getting off the line, the easier it’ll be for the entire defense.
One of the first things he did was come in and move Jones to cornerback.
And just like what Parcells did with Flozell, the Cowboys made a surprising move and picked up his fifth-year option for 2019.
Richard, who said he evaluated Jones as a cornerback coming out of college in 2015, talked about him this past weekend at the rookie minicamp.
“Prototypical (corner),” Richard said of Jones. “Fantastic athlete. Great height, size, length, speed. Everything is there. He has a great attitude. He’s been working hard from Day 1. I’m happy to be around him.”
Sometimes coaches just have a different vision for a player than others.
Again, it’s still early to predict anything. We’ve seen Jones for three years now and his interception total can be counted on two fingers.
But I’ve seen bigger turnarounds before. And if Jones makes a jump anywhere close to what Adams did 15 years ago, the Cowboys won’t be worrying about a fifth-year option. They’ll be negotiating a new contract altogether.