Star Evaluation: Awuzie Flashed Starting Potential Despite Rookie Injuries

While the first couple of waves of free agency have passed, it's never too late to upgrade the roster, something the Cowboys will try to do at the end of this month with the NFL Draft.  

Even with that, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.

Today, we continue the series with cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.

Views of #24 Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie from the 2017-18 Regular Season.

What's Been Good:

In the 10 games Awuzie played, he showed the ball skills and competitive streak that made him a second-round pick in last April's draft. The former Colorado star worked his way into the starting lineup for the final five games and recorded 27 tackles, 7 pass breakups and an interception. With Awuzie, 2017 third-round pick Jourdan Lewis and sixth-round pick Xavier Woods manning the top three cornerback spots, the Cowboys went 4-1 to end the season. Awuzie also showed some versatility earlier in the year, lining up at safety in packages against the Packers.

What's Been Bad:

Injuries got in Awuzie's way for much of the year. He missed six games and most of a seventh (Week 2 at Denver) with a bothersome hamstring injury that originally sidelined him for a good portion of training camp. The Cowboys certainly would have worked him into the secondary rotation quickly, but he was only able to get on the field for 52 total defensive snaps in the first 9 games. The starting reps he got down the stretch were valuable experience for Year 2, however.

2017 Highlight:

Back from his hamstring injury, Awuzie made his first career start at left cornerback in Week 13 against the Washington Redskins and broke up three passes in 53 snaps, nearly equaling his workload in the first 11 games combined. The Cowboys won 38-14 and snapped a three-game losing streak.

What's Next:

With Orlando Scandrick now a member of the Redskins, there's a clear path for Awuzie to earn a starting cornerback spot next season. That was probably the team's expectation in 2017, but his injuries kept Nolan Carroll in a starting role before the Cowboys released the veteran in the middle of the season. It'll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and new passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard utilize their young DBs, but one thing is certain: Awuzie is a big part of their plans going forward.

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  • Battled injury early to have an outstanding rookie season. Worked hard with the athletic training staff to put himself in position to start the final five contests at cornerback.
  • Was a combination of speed and power. There was no fear in the way he went about his job. Competitive. Doesn't give an inch.
  • Outstanding football intelligence. Rarely see him out of position. Mental and physical toughness.
  • Plays with body control and balance. Nice in press coverage to stick with his man on the line but just as good in off coverage. Will drive and rally to the ball.
  • I had some questions about his ability to play as a corner. Thought he might have been a better safety, but he looks totally comfortable as a corner for this club going forward.
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