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 Chidobe Awuzie.
What's Been Good: Awuzie's performance in 2018 is a testament to the thankless nature of the cornerback position. He manned the spot opposite Byron Jones for his entire second season and handled himself well for the most part. However, with Jones earning Pro Bowl honors on the other side of the field, opponents seemed far more willing to test Awuzie – and they were occasionally successful. That's more of a testament to the difficulty of the position than Awuzie's coverage abilities. For example, thinking back to Julio Jones' game-tying touchdown in the Week 11 game at Atlanta, it's hard to find a ton to fault with the coverage. That more or less encapsulates the season. In his first full year as a starter, Awuzie was reliable and his growing pains were not discouraging.
What's Been Bad: That said, there are always things you can improve upon. One common theme for Awuzie in 2018 seemed to be an inability to look back and try to play the ball. As previously stated, his coverage was mostly effective. He finished second on the team with 13 passes defended. But perhaps better play on the ball would have resulted in more incompletions – or potentially more interceptions. Tackling is another area that could use work. An egregious example comes to mind from the Week 15 loss to Indianapolis, when Awuzie had a chance to stop Colts running back Marlon Mack for a one-yard loss. Mack slipped the tackle and rumbled 19 yards, and five plays later the Colts were in the end zone for an early lead.
2018 Highlight: For whatever reason, Awuzie comes to play in Week 17. He got his first career interception during Week 17 of his rookie season in 2017, and he built on that this year. That Dec. 30 game against the Giants might have been meaningless to the standings, but don't tell that to Awuzie. Eli Manning targeted him five times on the day, and he surrendered just two catches for 26 yards. On top of that, he got his first and only pick of the season when he leapt in front of a fade route intended for Sterling Shepard and came away with an end zone interception.
What's Next: By any objective measure, Awuzie's second season has to be considered a success. The former second-round pick came on strong at the end of his rookie season, and he carried that into a solid sophomore effort as a full-time starter. There are always things to improve upon. Across the board, it'd be nice to see some Dallas cornerbacks manage some interceptions – as a unit, they managed just three all season. But at the halfway point of his rookie contract, Awuzie looks like a solid draft pick and should form a solid duo with Jones for at least the 2019 season – if not many more.
The evaluation of the 2019 roster continues, as we take a look at how Chidobe Awuzie grew in his first full season as a starter at cornerback.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: Give him credit for playing banged up the entire season. When he could have taken time off and missed practice, he fought through some issues. He flashed brilliance at times, then there were others where he just needed to be better. As often as opponents went at him during the season, I thought he held up well -- but there was more he could have done from a technique aspect to improve his game. Don't believe he lacks courage to tackle but it's not his strongest trait.