While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, 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'll continue the series with safety Xavier Woods.
Views of #25 Strong Saftey Xavier Woods from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
It seems hard to view Woods' rookie season as anything other than a rousing success, all things considered. The Louisiana native was drafted in the sixth-round, all the way back at pick No. 191. Not only did he make the team, but he appeared in all 16 games, starting four. It wasn't surprising to see Woods play at his natural safety position, but injuries also forced him to play some nickel corner – a role he showed some promise in. All told, he played 504 defensive snaps at two different positions, managing 41 tackles and an interception. Not too shabby for a guy who lasted all the way to the sixth round.
What's Been Bad:
That's not to say Woods is a finished product. He was still a rookie, and he looked the part at times. All of the Cowboys' rookie defensive backs had their growing pains, and Woods was no different given that he was on the field for 50 percent of the defense's snaps. It'll be especially interesting to see how the coaching staff handles his versatility. There are new coaches in place who will likely determine whether Woods moves forward at safety or nickel back – or in all likelihood both. How he develops heading into Year 2 will be crucial for his role in 2018.
The Cowboys would ultimately lose to Atlanta by 20 points, but that shouldn't detract from one of the best plays a Dallas defender made all season. With the Falcons facing a 3rd-and-7 from their own red zone in the first quarter, Matt Ryan looked for Mohamed Sanu on a contested comeback route. Anthony Brown and Sanu fought for the ball, popping it into the air. Woods, playing safety backtracked and dove for the ricochet, hauling it in for an impressive interception. The takeaway set the Cowboys up to take a 7-0 lead – which was ultimately their only lead of the game.
It'll be fun to sort out the pecking order in the defensive backfield this year, as all the Cowboys' contributors return. The cornerback depth chart looks particularly stout, with Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown all under contract. All four safeties return from 2017, as well. That said, it seems early to set anything in stone. The secondary showed flashes of potential last year, but there's a definitive need for improvement. It's also interesting to think how the addition of Kris Richard as secondary coach could shake things up. As it stands right now, Woods is probably looking up the depth chart at Jeff Heath, Byron Jones and Kavon Frazier. If he continues his trajectory from last season, though, it's not hard to imagine him climbing the ladder.
- In a surprising move after the Chargers game, the coaching staff put Xavier Woods in as the primary slot/nickel corner.
- To his credit, he wasn't exposed and handled the assignment well.
- Where Woods wasn't a liability in coverage, he wasn't always sound as a tackler.
- For him to compete for a starting spot at safety, he's going to need to be more consistent in that area to secure the job.