Cowboys 2017 DB’s – Depth, Rotations & Snaps

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series 2017 Cowboys Depth, Rotations & Snaps

In this series, we break down the potential Dallas Cowboys depth chart, rotations and snap counts for the 2017 season.

It’s the modern NFL. Free agency is here to stay and organizations have to deal with moving parts each season. There is more to building a team each year than just finding the best 11 starters for each side of the ball. In this era of specialization and pass-happy offenses, a “starter” is a fluid term, to say the least. Teams employing three and four receiver sets have to be countered with defenses that echo that alignment. Ultimately it comes down to not only your starters but your positional depth and/or the snap counts players get. It’s not getting the best 53 players to put a pen on a contract. It’s getting the right 53.

Ed Note: Click here for the latest Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart. It’s interactive and exportable.

As of today rookies are rookies and have yet to earn stars on their helmets. However, these players were obtained for a reason and our lineups reflect that. Today we’re going to look at the potential 2017 Cowboys defensive backs rotations.

The Cowboys let starting Safety Barry Church, starting CB Brandon Carr, starting CB Morris Claiborne and rotational DB J.J. Wilcox all walk in free agency yet the cupboard is hardly bare.

DB Base Alignment

Jones and Scandrick are “locks” to start. Heath and Brown are “probable.” Sophomore Anthony Brown has given no reason to doubt his skill set through OTA’s. His rookie season was not a fluke. As long as he keeps doing the work he will continue to improve. He will. This is Jeff Heath’s year. He got thrust into a starting role as an over-matched rookie. He has improved each season and actually has the best hands of any of the DB’s currently on the roster. Sophomore Kavon Fraizer will make certain nothing is given to him as he played injured last season but is now fully healthy.

Unless there is an injury rookie Chidobe Awuzie will not be a starter to begin the season in 2017. He’s a CB taken LATE in the first second round. He will have an adjustment period.

DB Passing Alignment

Nothing really changes here for the Cowboys. Scandrick moves to the slot once the Nickle-D takes the field. Veteran Nolan Carroll is currently tabbed to be the starter yet an offseason DUI arrest could easily lead to a four-game suspension to start the season. Ball-hawk DB Jourdan Lewis should see the field when teams go four wide.

Awuzie may start depending on the status of DUI-fan Nolan Carroll (more below). He should end the season as the starter regardless.

DB TE Alignment

After playing multiple defensive positions in college during OTA’s Awuzie has been getting the Byron Jones rookie treatment. He will play on the edge, in the slot and at safety. Yes, he’s that versatile and by working him at multiple positions Dallas can more easily get their best group of players on the field. The other specific job the team is hoping Chidobe can accomplish is to become a downfield TE stopper. Prolific pass-catching TE’s are becoming all the rage in the NFL and matching up with them is a challenge. Making it worse is the Patriots effect where some teams will have multiple options at TE driving defensive coordinators mad.

Jones can handle one yet the team would like to keep him running free if possible. Enter Chidobe who like Jones is physically able to matchup and has the mental tenacity and collegiate experience to make it work. Make no mistake, this defensive flexibility will be critical for the Cowboys in 2017 with the Giants, Redskins and Eagles all having big-time talents at TE now.

DB Depth

  • FS – Byron Jones/Xavier Woods
  • SS – Jeff Heath/Robert Blanton/Kavon Frazier
  • CB – Orlando Scandrick/Nolan Carroll/Chidobe Awuzie
  • CB – Anthony Brown/Marquez White
  • SCB – Orlando Scandrick/Chidobe Awuzie/Jourdan Lewis

When you let three starters and one key rotational player take a walk you take a hit in the depth department but the Dallas front office was obviously ready for it and did a fine job of restocking the cupboard. Don’t overlook veteran free-agent signees Robert Blanton and Nolan Carroll. Carroll’s pending DUI issue aside these were key moves this offseason that gives the Cowboys coaches a critical veteran presence to lean on.

After the two vets it’s all about talent. Kavon Frazier could easily beat out Jeff Heath and brings a physical presence to the position that is always welcome. Xavier Woods has the tools to hold down the top of the D while Jones cancels out opposing tight ends. Marquez White has all of the raw tools and Jourdan Lewis is a highly intriguing ball-hawking DB who looks to be the heir apparent to the Orlando Scandrick role.

DB On The Bubble

  • CB Nolan Caroll
  • CB – Marquez White
  • Safety – Robert Blanton

Once first round pick Awuzie gets his hands on a starting spot he probably won’t let go. If Nolan Carroll’s DUI results in an early four-game suspension his value to the team could very well be negligible when weighed against the burgeoning young talent that should be much more evolved when Caroll may be eligible to return.

Marquez White does indeed have all of the raw, physical tools. That’s just it. He’s raw. The practice squad is an option in case he can’t make the final 53.

Robert Blanton is in direct competition with Jameill Showers and Xavier Woods for a roster spot. Guys on rookie contracts are what makes the Cowboys salary cap wheel move without squeaking.

DB Dark Horses

  • CB – Jourdan Lewis
  • Safety – Robert Blanton
  • Safety – Kavon Frazier

Jourdan Lewis has his own impending legal issues yet he and the team both seem confident they won’t impact his freshman campaign. Ball-hawk is a term you want to be associated with your players and Dallas is sorely in need of someone to increase their tepid interception numbers. Lewis could be that guy.

Jeff Heath is the man at Safety. Unless he isn’t. It won’t be a matter of Heath playing badly, he won’t. However Blanton isn’t chopped liver and has the skills to excel in Marinelli’s D. Frazier brings the big thump, speed and a rookie contract to the party after playing injured during his rookie campaign. Remember the physicality Wilcox brought to the field? I know Odell Beckham Jr. does. Fraizer brings that same ability and Rod Marinelli wants that on the field. I look at the safety position next to Byron Jones as being the most competitive battle in the backfield this training camp.

We will move back to the offensive side of the ball next. Til then.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Series Navigation<< Cowboys 2017 TE – Depth, Rotations & SnapsCowboys 2017 WR’s – Depth, Rotations & Snaps >>
Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Writer at SportsTalkLine
Editor, Writer, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. I watch sports, I talk about sports then I write about sports. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over

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  • McShrek

    Petrified that the release of 4 key contributors will come back to haunt this defense, even if they were not Pro-Bowl types…………just because we drafted 4 DBs does not mean they can actually play at the next level…..exhibition games will mean more than usual this coming summer, as the rookies try to earn spots……or not.

  • Senovio Rodriguez

    The defense is going to…hard to say. The pass rush is… remember that the pass rush looked okay in 2015 preseason and then just …looked or reverted back to form. Just not good enough.

    The secondary is just going to learn on the job. Just let them play. Don’t need old and limited, ie. No to Reevis.

    Been awhile and just got behind in all things Cowboys.

    Does suspension of Carroll hurt? Maybe. But team seems to have the bodies…or numbers.

    Does the suspension of Irving hurt? That is a big yes. Just need pressure from anywhere.

    And just to get the old shouting started: who is the backup QB? What about Colin K? a. hasn’t killed anyone b. don’t know of any DV c. doesn’t seem to be an ahole d. can rush…and doesn’t have a noodle arm

    a good offense and an offense that might need a good backup QB will cover up any …weaknesses in D until it can jell and get better.

    • Jon B

      Was Randy gregory the it looked good pass rusher. He’s a scratch again.

      We didn’t draft a player with his skillset. We drafted DLaws replacement.

      Unless we sign a camp cut from some other team I don’t see a 12 sack guy on the roster.

  • Taylor

    I’ve said it before, but one more time. If we cannot force a 3-4 second release, it’s not going to matter who is in the secondary. No one can cover for 6+ seconds.

  • hardwater

    I only like Scandrick in the slot and this is his last year in Dallas anyway unless he’s traded before. Would prefer to see the young guys grow up together so play them.

  • Kevin Black

    Uhm… Awuzie was a late ‘second’ round pick, not first round. Taco Charlton was the late first round pick.

    Still, a solid piece of writing. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wants to keep Brown in the starting lineup. If Carroll didn’t have a DUI suspension coming, I’d think he’d start over Scandrick due to his height and keep Scandrick at the slot. I think Carroll is what also makes Scandrick expendable/tradable. You have Awuzie, Brown and Lewis who could all cover the slot. Scandrick can also handle the outside, something I think the Dallas coaches are not sold on with Lewis yet.

    • Steven Van Over

      tip-o-the-cap to Kevin Black .. thanks for the correction