IRVING, Texas – In his 20 years coaching in the NFL, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can't recall a rookie defensive back playing as well for him as Byron Jones has through seven games.
"I can't remember one, really, as a rookie coming out and playing as well as he has," Marinelli said Thursday.
Since drafting him in the first round in April, the Cowboys have asked Jones to play just about everywhere in the secondary: corner, safety, subpackages, base defense, you name it.
Every time, the coaches will tell you, Jones has accepted the challenge – whether it's covering Jason Witten in practice or lining up against Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in games.
Jones made his first start at free safety last Sunday against the Seahawks and played the entire game defensively.
"It's amazing that he's been able to do this as a rookie. You'd be asking a lot of a veteran to do that," Marinelli said. "But he has handled everything well, he's so conscientious, his attention to detail, but not just the assignments, the attention to detail in the skill development. That's what I'm really impressed with.
"I think he embraces it. Nothing seems to affect him. He embraces the challenges."
Marinelli said Jones has improved as a tackler and is playing with stronger leverage.
What else can he do better?
"He needs to get the ball," Marinelli said. "That's what's going to separate him. Start taking the ball away."
Always room for improvement, but the Cowboys have asked plenty of Jones – and they can't ask for much more than he's given them.