FRISCO, Texas - If you can recall, and you likely can, there was a point in time when the Cowboys were perennially deficient at the safety position. Well, Pepperidge Farm remembers, and it was as recently as 2020 when things had yet to be sorted out at the back end of the Cowboys defense.
The acquisition of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator in 2021 ushered in a new outlook on the position though, Quinn having helped construct a Super Bowl-winning defense - a.k.a. The Legion of Boom - in Seattle that included one of the more dominant safety units in all of football when Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas patrolled the third level for the Seahawks.
Having now signed an extension to remain in Dallas for the foreseeable future, Quinn and the Cowboys front office have built something eye-opening at safety; and in just two seasons.
"We've never been in better shape at safety," owner and general manager Jerry Jones told 105.3 FM the Fan on Tuesday ahead of roster cutdowns.
The club found itself facing some intensely challenging decisions on Tuesday, largely centered around if they'd carry four or five safeties, and who'd they risk to waivers with the hopes of having them rejoin the team as a member of the 17-man practice squad.
They'd settle on carrying five on the active roster - i.e., Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, Israel Mukuamu and Markquese Bell - able to reacquire Tyler Coyle and Juanyeh Thomas for practice squad development and possible call-up to game day rosters, if and when needed. All told, along with the massive upswing in the development of Mukuamu (who had two interceptions in as many preseason games to secure his roster spot), Jones is beaming at just how the Cowboys are suddenly bursting at the seams with safety talent.
And while they've had legendary players dominate the position before, as far as the sheer number of potential impact players goes, for Jones, this current roster takes the cake.
"We've never had better players, all told, better players," Jones said, proudly. "Don't take anything away from Darren Woodson or Roy Williams, but in general, at the position, we've never been in better shape."
It's a movement that began with the signing of Kearse in 2021 and then Hooker in training camp a few months later, and while things didn't work out for Damontae Kazee, he was a contributor over the first half of the season before ultimately giving way to the current crop of talent. But, unlike Kazee, both Kearse and Hooker earned new deals in Dallas and are inarguably the top two at the position - Wilson having also proven he's can be a game changer when healthy.
"[Malik] Hooker is supposed to have been good. We wanted to pick him," said Jones. "He got picked [by the Colts] as the sixth pick of the first round [of the 2017 NFL Draft]. We wanted him. So, these guys are playing to form in many cases out there - I like that."
No matter how you slice it, the Cowboys have officially baked something special at safety, with Quinn donning the apron, and it's a 180-degree turnaround from the days of convincing themselves a box of Oatmeal Creme Pies was the same as a five-tier wedding cake.