FRISCO, Texas – It's possible the Cowboys' secondary has been the most discussed aspect of this roster in the time since the 2016 season ended.
Whether it was speculating about the future of the free agent defensive backs, reacting to their eventual departure or watching as the Cowboys drafted four new ones in April, the secondary has been a hot topic for roughly six months now.
That doesn't look likely to stop, as the challenge now shifts to training camp, where the coaching staff will seek to find its best possible secondary among a wide variety of options. It's hard to gauge how exactly that will shape up – but that's not going to stop anyone from trying.
As the Cowboys approach the end of their offseason program, the staff of DallasCowboys.com wanted to take a crack at predicting the starting secondary when the season starts. Here's their best guess.
Rob Phillips: When we ranked our Top 10 position battles last Friday, cornerback (2) and safety (4) each made the Top 5. Put them together and the secondary is the easily the most competitive spot on the roster. With only two weeks of OTAs to draw from, I'd say the most experienced corners (Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown) should have the inside track for the most snaps early on. The luxury of adding so much depth here is Scandrick could exclusively play the slot, which I still consider a starting job, especially when you play a three-wide offense like the Giants. Scandrick has shown he can play outside in base and move inside, though. One thing the Cowboys liked about Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis is they are quick studies. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they push for playing time in camp. At safety, I think Jeff Heath will start Week 1 opposite Byron Jones, but Xavier Woods already carries himself like a five-year veteran. Keep an eye on him, too. The best part about this situation is the Cowboys will play their best five. The best players will get the most snaps.
Nick Eatman: Factoring in the surprise-element that always occurs in every camp, I could see your opening-day starters at corner being Scandrick, Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie in the nickel defense. I'm sure Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown will also have a role in this defense but coming out of camp those top three get the starting nod. Carroll's off-field situation might factor into his non-start in Week 1. At safety, I see Heath and Jones starting with Frazier beating out Xavier Woods for the third spot. Remember, this is just Week 1. Things will change as the season progresses.
David Helman:The common cliché is that the person who hustles the hardest is going to win the starting job, but I'm trying to approach this situation from a logical standpoint. Orlando Scandrick and Nolan Carroll are the most expensive corners on this team, and Chidobe Awuzie was the No. 60 overall pick. I think that puts them in line to claim the top three jobs, simply because you don't want your biggest investments to be idling on the bench. The story is a little bit different at safety, where I think the sheer experience of Byron Jones and Jeff Heath will win out in the end – although both are well-compensated players in their own right. Of course, you can't discount the experience that Anthony Brown brings to the table, and you have to account for the possibility that Carroll is suspended at some point. We don't know if that's going to happen, which makes this hard to predict. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say Carroll, Scandrick and Awuzie will be the three primary corners with Brown serving as a dime. Kavon Frazier and Jourdan Lewis will also earn plenty of snaps when this team goes into subpackages, like they did on plenty of occasions last year.
Bryan Broaddus:It's always dangerous to pick starters in June, especially at a position that's had as much turnover as the defensive backs. I am going to gamble here and say that Nolan Carroll will not receive a suspension from the league and he will be available against the New York Giants. Look for him to start at left cornerback with Orlando Scandrick lining up on the right side. Jeff Heath and Byron Jones will be the safeties with Anthony Brown as the nickel and Chidobe Awuzie as the dime.