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What's Up at Safety? Thomas, Bell to infuse youth


FRISCO, Texas — It was one of the more solid positions of the Dallas Cowboys in 2023, and in 2022 as well, once the organization shifted its value equation regarding it. Malik Hooker is now leading the charge along with Donovan Wilson, and both were recipients of new contracts last summer – well-deserved and serving as an anchor against regression.

The emergence of Juanyeh Thomas achieves the same goal, as does the move to place Markquese Bell back at safety following an experiment at linebacker in 2023.

But there are also others to discuss in this equation as well and, as it stands, none of them are Jayron Kearse, a vacancy that must be filled by any one (or more) of the young, talented safeties who desperately want snaps alongside Hooker and Wilson.

With that, it's time to discuss "What's Up" at safety in Dallas.

What We Know: This is one of the most promising position groups on the entire roster for the Cowboys, but that doesn't mean nothing can go wrong. It will be important that Juanyeh Thomas continues his upward trajectory but, this time, as a starter in the post-Jayron Kearse era, and the same applies for Markquese Bell as he reverts back to safety. Follow Malik Hooker's lead and prosper, or at least that should be the formula. The exception being Donovan Wilson, who is mostly one of a kind in this defense — key word being "mostly".

What We Don't: Will the next Kearse please step up? Is it Thomas, given his versatility and ability to both be physical and cover, two items needed to defend tight ends? Or is it Bell, who is also versatile and physical, and no longer taking on linebacker duties? I expect this to be a fun battle between two guys who have both earned the right, and who are both in Year 3.

What to Watch For: Julius Wood and Emany Johnson are the newcomers to the group. The two undrafted free agents will be asked to show and prove as rookies in training camp, and both have the frame and skill set to do exactly that, but welcome back to Bell as well, someone who will make life difficult for all others on the safeties depth chart; and with more knowledge of the responsibilities of the linebackers in front of him.

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