FRISCO, Texas – Maurice Linguist isn't a fan of labels, and he doesn't need to be.
That's for outsiders to figure out – in this case, the media. Reporters, in search of interesting storylines, see a player trying a different position. Reggie Robinson, who has played a lot of safety in the last week after initially playing cornerback.
Naturally, that leads to questions about whether the fourth-round draft pick has made a position switch. But Linguist, the Cowboys' defensive backs coach, was quick to point out his motto – there's only one position.
"I'll tell you what I told all the DB's: 'Hey guys, you guys play DB,'" Linguist said Saturday. "Don't lock yourself into a position or lock yourself into thinking you're any one thing. Learn them all. There's multiple spots back there."
The philosophy has been evident through these two weeks of training camp.
It's normal to see corners shift between the slot and the boundary, as has often been the case with guys like Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. But in these practices Robinson hasn't been the only one to cross-train between safety and corner. Veteran Daryl Worley has moved all over the field, spending time at safety, cornerback and nickel back. Even Lewis, who has been sidelined by an ankle injury, worked into some safety-specific positional drills before he got hurt.
"By no means are you just one position for us," Linguist said. "You play defensive back, and we all know how this thing kind of guys throughout the season. We'll see multiple people at multiple different positions."
Another good point. That plays out across the NFL on a yearly basis. In 2017, injuries forced Xavier Woods into the slot for much of his rookie season. Just last year, as a member of the Oakland Raiders, Worley rotated into the safety spot because of injuries at the position.
There's also the benefit of learning the defense that much better. Linguist said the best defensive backs he's been around have an understanding for every assignment on the field, as that knowledge can help a player excel at his own position.
"If I know exactly where the safety is and I'm a corner, well that's going to help me better understand what my technique is at corner," he said. "If I know exactly what a corner is doing at the safety position, it can help me move six inches to the left or six inches to the right and be successful."
Naturally, there are likely limits to this. The coaches are still going to fit players into their most natural positions. Neither Diggs nor Brown has spent time at safety, and Chidobe Awuzie told reporters last week that the coaches had not talked to him about playing safety, despite an offseason of speculation. But the message seems clear: the more you can do, the more likely you are to earn a roster spot.
For a secondary full of unknowns, that might be the best bet to field the best unit possible.
"I think one of the worst things you can do is say 'This is what I am,'" Linguist said. "Because what it's going to allow us to do is plug and play the next best person, the next best player – not necessarily just the 'backup' of the position. How can we find the best spots – six, seven, eight DBs – and get them on the field together in a rotation."