Skip to main content

How Best To Handle The Losses At Safety?


FRISCO, Texas – The word "safety" is a bit ironic in the Cowboys' current context.

Traditionally, a safety is a last line of defense and a fallback in a team's defensive scheme. And with injuries plaguing their safeties, that's exactly what the Cowboys don't have.

"Obviously, all teams go through this. You're not as deep as you'd like to be everywhere," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones on Wednesday.

Last weekend's preseason game against Cincinnati took quite a toll on what was already one of the Cowboys' thinnest positions. Starting safety Xavier Woods suffered a hamstring strain, which will likely sideline him for the rest of the preseason – if not longer.

"We probably won't see him in the preseason at all as we move forward, and be conservative as possible trying to get him ready for the first game," Jones said. "But we got to understand that that may not be the case either."

On top of that, veteran safety Jameill Showers tore his ACL against the Bengals, landing him on injured reserve. Combine that with Marqueston Huff's ongoing recovery from a groin injury, and the team is in a bind trying to get through training camp practices, let alone preparing for the season opener.

To combat that, the front office has added some bodies. The Cowboys signed undrafted rookie Dominick Sanders on Monday, and they added a seven-year veteran on Tuesday by signing Jeron Johnson, who played in Seattle with secondary coach Kris Richard.

"Obviously one of them was with Kris Richard, who he had some comfort with," Jones said.

Johnson and Sanders should help the team get through these next eight days, when they'll play two preseason games before cutting the roster from 90 men to 53. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

One healthy starter remains, as Jeff Heath has enjoyed a productive preseason. It's also fair to guess that Kavon Frazier has some job security as one of just a few experienced safeties on this roster.

Beyond that, it's a bit of a hodgepodge. Undrafted rookies Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly have flashed at times during training camp, and Johnson have played in 64 career games.

Excluding Heath, with his 25 career starts, the Cowboys currently have just three combined starts between the rest of their safety group. They are also currently lacking options for their preferred free safety role, as Frazier and Co. function more often as box players.

"If we're going to have to replace it with a more of a strong safety, then that's what we'll do to get the job done," Jones said.

At this point in time, there aren't a ton of other options. With a week left in training camp, there aren't many qualified free agents on the street. The Cowboys were briefly interested in veteran safety George Iloka after he was released by Cincinnati, but Iloka signed a one-year deal with Minnesota on Wednesday morning.

There are other avenues, but that will come in time. For all the speculation about blockbuster trades, the Cowboys also have a tendency to execute minor ones during roster cuts. They traded a late-round draft pick for veteran cornerback Bené 

Benwikere last year during the final weekend of the preseason. In 2015, they added Christine Michael to the roster in exchange for a seventh-round pick.

Of course, those types of moves don't tend to deliver All-Pros – but they might not need to. From the sounds of it, the Cowboys were quite happy with the way Woods was playing for them. The next few weeks could simply be about making do until he can return to action.

"We'll be monitoring Xavier week to week. We all know that with these hamstrings they can be tricky," Jones said. "The biggest thing we got to do is make sure we get him well, because it's a long season and certainly he was playing at a very high level for us back there in the post."