Cowboys 2017 DB’s – Depth, Rotations & Snaps

Orlando Scandrick
This entry is part 3 of 5 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

  • FS – Byron Jones
  • SS – Jeff Heath (Kavon Frazier)
  • CB – Orlando Scandrick
  • CB – Anthony Brown

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

  • FS – Byron Jones
  • SS – Jeff Heath
  • CB – Nolan Carroll (Chidobe Awuzie)
  • CB – Anthony Brown
  • NCB – Orlando Scandrick (Chidobe Awuzie)
  • DCB – Jourdan Lewis

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

  • FS – Byron Jones
  • SS – Jeff Heath
  • CB – Nolan Carroll
  • CB – Anthony Brown
  • SCB – Orlando Scandrick
  • TECB – Chidobe Awuzie

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

Cowboys Tidbits

Cowboys Star

The closer I get to you
The more you make me see
By giving me all you got
Your love has captured me..

Yes Dallas Cowboys fans, I’m listening to “The Closer I Get To You” by Roberta Flack ft. Donny Hathaway, the rookie minicamp is upon us, the season is getting close and it’s safe to say that i’m a bit emotional.

On May 12 the Cowboys rookies and Jaylon Smith will see start the official start of the season.

I know….I know….free agency, the draft, etc…..etc…. in my eyes this could be the rebirth of the organization. Now I’m sure you’re wondering why the optimism all of sudden Big Rog Dog? You lost the heart of your defense with Barry Church leaving and Brandon Carr and his 144 consecutive games. Not to mention JJ Wilcox and Morris Claiborne left for riches and more importantly an opportunity to leave the ghosts of their draft positions and expectations behind them. If you’ve read my work in the past, you know that I have been a Wilcox fan for a while and I think that the Cowboys were impatient. I would go as far as say that he should have been resigned before Jeff Heath but we will be able to track both of their progress this year, especially now that the Cowboys are giving Heath a chance to win the starting strong safety position next to Byron Jones. Heath has shown flashes the last two seasons so I do not doubt that he can handle whatever Marinelli throws at him.

The Cowboys drafted three cornerbacks and one safety to replace our dearly departed free agents. I was mildly disappointed with the way the team drafted due to the moves they made in free agency, signing Nolan Carroll II and the sheer numbers that the team has at CB makes it hard for one of the rookies to make the team and it would be a mistake to get rid of Orlando Scandrick. In my humble opinion the team overreacted to the mass exodus and forgot about the other holes on the 2017 roster. Matter of fact, I hate to bring up old stuff but I will to prove a point. If you’ve been a Cowboys fan long enough, you remember one of the worst drafts in Cowboys history which is the 2000 NFL Draft. The team drafted Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore and Mario Edwards and out of the three Edwards had the longest career. Goodrich’s career was cut short by an unfortunate accident, compounded by a poor decision and Larrimore only played two seasons for the team before getting cut. I understand that the organization has become better in the scouting department but I think they got greedy when they drafted Marquez White.

The reality is that the back end of the defense got young overnight, so expect growing pains. For every yen, there’s a yang and although you’re going to have growing pains, the defensive backfield will be a lot more athletic than it was last year. For all of Church’s experience and handwork, he’s not as dynamic as the young defensive backs will be. It was short-sighted to go as heavy defensively as they did considering that they passed on Jake Butt in the fourth round for Ryan Switzer. The Cowboys had a chance to have a legitimate heir to Jason Witten’s throne on the roster but decided to go for a special teams star. Unless Switzer returns at least three to four touchdowns on punt returns and replaces Lance Dunbar as the third down back in Linehan’s office I’ll be criticizing this pick for awhile. It seems that everyone is excited about Xavier Woods, the hard hitting safety from Louisiana Tech who in his college career was a turnover machine. I’m not sure that he is a better tackler than Wilcox but he’s not afraid to mix it up. With his ball skills and ability to diagnose plays, Marinelli shouldn’t have a problem playing Cover 1 when he needs to. I would be surprised if Woods earns a starting spot when the season starts but he will get more playing time during the middle of the season. We have a long way to go before this roster shapes up for the regular season but all the work starts now.

It’s about that time Cowboys fans.

So Mote It Be