With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with cornerback Jourdan Lewis.
What's Been Good: "Next man up" is one of head coach Jason Garrett's popular adages. Jourdan Lewis embodied that phrase at different times last season – not so much as an injury replacement, but simply because he stayed ready for opportunities. A third-round draft pick in 2017, Lewis went from part-time starter to fourth cornerback in 2018 under new secondary coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard. But he made impactful plays when called upon (see "2018 Highlight" below) and pitched in on offense and special teams (2 "jet sweep" runs for 12 yards, 2 kickoff returns for 18 yards).
What's Been Bad: More than anything – really, through little fault of his own – it's Lewis' difficulty finding snaps in a talented secondary. As Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said recently, "I think we've got one of the best corner staffs in the league in terms of depth. When Jourdan Lewis is not getting a lot of plays, I think that tells you a lot." Although the 5-foot-10 Lewis isn't the tall, rangy corner prototype Richard has coached in previous stops, the Cowboys still value his ball skills and instincts. But Byron Jones crowded the depth chart by moving to corner and producing an All-Pro season. Anthony Brown also had a solid year after earning the No. 3 corner spot in training camp. It's a good problem for Richard and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
2018 Highlight: Play for play, Lewis' game against the Saints' vaunted offense was among the most productive by anybody on the roster last season. In only eight defensive snaps, he posted a tackle, a pass breakup and a fingertip victory-sealing interception against Drew Brees. He also did a solid job covering versatile running back Alvin Kamara.
What's Next: The core cornerback group returns intact next season, and the Cowboys could look to add depth in the draft this April. Lewis will have to compete for snaps once again, but he's shown he can produce when asked.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: Players generally like when there's a coaching change, especially if that player felt he wasn't getting treating fairly. Jourdan Lewis was a starter and a productive player during his rookie season, but the secondary coach change from Joe Baker to Kris Richard left him on the outside looking in. Richard moved Byron Jones from safety to corner, replacing Lewis, who suddenly was reduced not even to a nickel but the sixth man in the dime. To say Lewis was disappointed would have been an understatement, and it wasn't until the coaches began to use Lewis on offense that he once again gained his swagger back. Lewis might not have played a ton of offensive snaps, but it made him feel useful again. Lewis' demeanor improved, and so did his play, especially when given the assignment of carrying Kamara all over the field in a key victory against the Saints in primetime. In Lewis' young career that was his finest hour and it proved to the coaches that if given the opportunity to excel he was more than capable of doing the job.