FRISCO, Texas – As always, this is the uncertain time of the year.
Roughly one-third of NFL rosters turn over every offseason as each club looks for ways to improve its fortunes moving forward. The Cowboys are no different, as they'll face many tough decisions in the coming months.
With that in mind, we're evaluating each position on the roster and what choices face the front office in 2021. Part 1 covered quarterback. Today, the start of Part 2: cornerback.
The Future For Chidobe Awuzie & Jourdan Lewis?
Four years ago, the Cowboys had a major shift in the secondary. Four veterans were set for free agency: cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. All signed with new teams.
In their place, the Cowboys used four draft picks on defensive backs, including cornerbacks Awuzie and Lewis and safety Xavier Woods. All became starters or key rotation players.
Four years later, the trio is set for free agency. How much change will the secondary see this time?
Let's focus on Awuzie and Lewis. They only played seven games together in 2020 due to injuries and Awuzie's one-game stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Overall, the Cowboys ranked 11th in pass defense, allowing 227.6 yards per game. The secondary gave up at least one explosive pass play touchdown in 10 of 16 games, but run defense was the biggest issue in 2020. The Cowboys ranked last against the run and yielded the second-most rushing yards in franchise history (2,541).
It was a challenging year for Awuzie. He hurt his hamstring on special teams in Week 2 against Atlanta and spent the next seven games on Reserve/Injured. Despite only seven appearances, he tied for second on defense with five pass breakups.
Lewis was arguably the most productive cornerback down the stretch in a variety of roles, playing in the box as well as his primary work in the slot. Lewis tied Jaylon Smith for the second-most tackles for loss (five), trailing only DeMarcus Lawrence (seven). He had two sacks in blitzing situations. And he even pitched in at safety for several snaps in a 37-17 December win over the Eagles.
There is cornerback talent at the top of the draft – the Cowboys have the 10th overall pick – but it's too early to rule out Awuzie and/or Lewis returning. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will evaluate the roster and obviously have a strong voice in personnel decisions on that side of the ball. Anthony Brown and rookie Trevon Diggs are under contract, as is Maurice Canady, who spent the season on the Reserve/Opt-Out list. But corner depth is critical in today's NFL.