IRVING, Texas– He was drafted as a corner who could play some safety. For most of this season, he's been a safety with the ability to play corner.
As the Cowboys enter their 10th game of the season, rookie Byron Jones is now heading back to cornerback.
At least that's the plan late in the week with starter Morris Claiborne hobbled with a hamstring injury. In that scenario, Jones will likely line up at left corner, and Brandon Carr would move to the right side.
The Cowboys haven't ruled Claiborne out, but he missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday. The contingency plan includes Jones moving down from safety, something his defensive coach say isn't as easy as it might sound, and especially how Jones did it last week in the middle of the Bucs game.
"It's a heck of a tribute to the guy to be able to do that within the game," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He goes out and does it, lines up … that's a hard transition now. The guy has been a nickel safety, down safety and now a corner. He just has the ability to embrace it and hold the ship."
Jones, however, doesn't seem fazed by the latest position switch.
"It's a familiar place for me," Jones said of cornerback. "Anytime I can just be out there and start, I'm a happy guy. Can't complain."
Jones added that he was able to use the same coverage and technique skills of a cornerback during his time at safety.
"The best part about it even when I was starting at safety I was doing individuals with corner, so I still have a lot of the technique down," he said. "So I kind of try to use that to my advantage. Just playing corner every day in individuals I can kind of carry it over to the game and to practice."
[embeddedad0]The biggest difference between the two positions – when it comes to coverage – is typically the speed and skill-set of the players he faces. As a nickel safety, Jones has been matched up against some of the best tight ends in the NFL, including Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. But the matchups with receivers can be a different beast.
"Well, tight ends are a little slower. You get an advantage on those guys," Jones said. "You can play them a little heavier, so it's kind of different. You don't want to be too handsy on the receiver that can run by you. So I'm a little more physical with the tight ends. It does have a little carryover, but for the most part it's different techniques."
Jones said he'll need to be as sound as ever when facing Miami's Jarvis Landry, who might not be the fastest receiver he'll face, but is already a crafty, savvy route-runner in just his second pro season.
"I knew he was good but when I watched him on film, that guy is really good," Jones said. "The plays that he makes, the energy that he plays with, the passion. He makes a lot of good, contested catches, a lot of catches you don't see receivers make often. He's going to be tough to cover no doubt about that."
But considering he's already on his third position change of his rookie season, Jones certainly seems up for this latest challenge.