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

Evaluating And Grading All Nine Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft Picks

2017 Cowboys Draft

We are coming up on two weeks since the Dallas Cowboys adding nine new faces via the 2017 NFL Draft. As we all noticed the Cowboys front office didn’t shy away from the defensive side of the ball with their draft selections making seven of the nine draft picks being defensive players. Today I will evaluate each selection by round and give you analysis on the player and my overall “Grade” on the pick.

Taco Charlton – Defensive End – Michigan – Round 1, No. 28 Overall

At 6’6 277lbs Taco Charlton fits the prototype for Defensive Ends the Dallas Cowboys love. Charlton is a long and lean end that plays with a tremendous amount of power. Taco looks the part easily in his suit and tie during press conferences and I can’t imagine what he’ll look like in pads. Charlton was only a one year starter at Michigan under Jim Harbaugh and raked up 9.5 sacks and 13.0 tackles for loss in his final season as a Michigan Wolverine. Charlton doesn’t have much bend in his lower half but shows flashes of being able to bend the edge and get to the Quarterback. Not sure if it’s a motor issue or he’s just not sure how to do it yet. You will see some tape of his where he has no problem flexing that ankle getting at a 45 degree angle easily and really win the edge and get the sack or QB hit. Here is an example of a rep where he bends with ease to get the sack:

This is a great rep by Taco Charlton. Explosive off the snap, wins the edge, and finishes the play by bending and dipping underneath the Tackle and getting the sack.

Here is an example of where he wins the edge but could NOT win the angle by bending and dipping under the Tackle, instead he gets turned around, rushes to far up field and past the Quarterback pocket and is a non factor in the play after winning off the line of scrimmage:

Charlton’s physical attributes aren’t the only appealing traits about him. Charlton’s ability to play anywhere along the defensive line is also a big part of his game and the Cowboys defensive scheme. Charlton has the length and show flashes of being explosive and bendy enough to be a starting Right End in the NFL. Chalrton was one of if not the best run defending defensive ends in the draft so that screams starting Left End in Dallas. The former Wolverine also has the ability to slide inside and play 3 technique on money downs, this is where I could see him getting a majority of his sacks and pressures. Taco Charlton is a solid pick for the Cowboys. A high floor low ceiling type of player who will contribute early and often. My knock on the pick is the Cowboys have a roster full of bigger defensive ends that can play left end or inside on passing downs (Crawford, Irving, Lawrence) but lack a true WDE (Right End) that can capture the edge with speed and to me there was multiple players still available that fit that WDE mold. If Marinelli gets Charlton down 10-15lbs and gets him to be even more explosive than he already is this could be a grade I will be eating crow on in a few seasons.

GRADE: C+

 

Chidobe Awuzie – Cornerback – Colorado – Round 2, No. 60 Overall

Awuzie was a home run value pick for me. I had Awuzie in my top 10 Cornerback rankings and had a early second round grade on him. To get him at the end of the second round was an absolute steal in my opinion. Awuzie is as versatile as they come and can play anywhere in the secondary. Awuzie had success as a boundary Corner, a nickle Corner (slot), and even as a Safety at times. Awuzie is a little under sized at right under 6’0 and right at 200lbs. However at times he plays like a 6’4 220 lb Strong Safety. Awuzie is sticky in coverage and has great instincts to break on footballs to consistently disrupt  plays or stop them as soon as they start. Awuzie is a great blitzer out of the slot and finished his College career at Colorado with 9 sacks. “Chido” needs to improve on his tackling but in the coverage aspect of the game I see his flaws as being to aggressive when using his instincts, which make him the great player that he is but also allows him to guess wrong from time to time. If Rod Marinelli and Joe Baker can pull the reigns back on how aggressively he uses those great instincts Chidobe Awuzie could end up being one of the greatest steals in the 2017 Draft.

GRADE: A-

 

Jourdan Lewis – Cornerback – Michigan – Round 3, No. 92 Overall

If not for the Domestic Violence charges that are currently hanging over Jourdan Lewis’s head, Lewis would likely have been a top 50 pick. Instead the Cowboys took a flyer on him at the end of the third round after doing their due diligence on the situation. Lewis is a super talented slot Corner with a very high ceiling. Lewis is a very annoying Cornerback to play against because he doesn’t give receivers any room in coverage and is very physical for his size. Lewis at 5’10 188lbs can handle his own on the outside as well but I think he is a pro-bowl caliber player in the slot. Lewis has very clean feet and insanely good ball skills for a defensive back. He also had a very productive career at Michigan raking up 6 interceptions in his last three years as a Wolverine. Lewis has an “alpha dog” mentality and is a very confident guy no matter who he is lined up against.

GRADE: B+

 

Ryan Switzer – Wide Receiver – North Carolina – Round 4, No. 133 Overall

Probably the pick that may have left some people scratching their heads, but not sure I could love it anymore. For years it seems the Cowboys have had a dominant offense, an average defense, and a non existent special teams. That has changed. Ryan Switzer brings an elite style of play as a returner on special teams. Ryan Switzer likely was drafted to fill Lucky Whitehead’s role but he is a major upgrade over Whitehead. Switzer along with being a dynamic returner also will be another weapon for Quarterback Dak Presscott. Switzer is almost a spitting image of Cole Beasley but I actually think he can do more. Switzer route tree is very similar to Beasley’s but also has more of a down the field aspect to his game that we haven’t seen from Cole. Switzer is a mismatch style of player that won’t play on the outside much at all but he is very good at his job as a slot receiver. To give you an idea of what the Dallas Coaches may be scheming up imagine on 3rd & 6 we have Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield with Presscott, Dez Bryant lined up on the right and Terrance Williams lined up on the left. Cole Beasley in one slot and Ryan Switzer on the other. Good luck stopping that NFL defenses.

Double coverage… makes both defenders bite on the head fake… jeeeeeesssshhhhh…

 

Xavier Woods – Safety – Louisiana Tech – Round 6, No. 191 Overall

The Cowboys lost Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in Free Agency and traded a fifth round pick next year to move up and grab Safety Xavier Woods. Woods is a player that is a perfect combination of both of those players. Woods has Church’s nose for the football hauling in 14 interceptions, getting 6 forced fumbles, and 181 tackles over his final three years at Louisiana Tech. Xavier has the capability to play Free Safety or Strong Safety which is exactly what the Cowboys were looking for in a Safety to match with Byron Jones. Woods has very good ball skills, excellent vision to weave through traffic to make tackles, and will knock you out cold if you try to cross him in the middle of the field. Woods is one of those guys who receivers will be keeping their eye on when they run drag routes across the middle. With all that being said Woods can improve on being more of a wrap up tackler instead an all or nothing hitter. Woods, like Awuzie has fantastic instincts and he uses them very aggressively, sometimes to a fault. Trusting what he see’s and pulling back the reigns on guessing is something he will learn soon in the NFL. I wish Xavier Woods was a few inches taller but I also love the way he moves and hits at his size. I see Woods taking over a starting Safety position before the end maybe even before the start of the 2017-2018 NFL season.

Ouch.

GRADE: B

 

Marquez White – Cornerback – Florida State – Round 6, No. 216 Overall

If you didn’t notice the Dallas Cowboys secondary rebuild by now I don’t know what to tell you. Marquez White is more of a project than a sure thing but man I love what I see from White. Like the other three Defensive Backs taken before him White is a very instinctive player who isn’t gifted with the most athletic traits. White stands at 6’0 tall and right at 200 lbs with long arms. The former Seminole has decent size on him to compete on the boundary and is very physical as a run defender. White is a guy who doesn’t play with great technique and is still very raw at the position but with some coaching and learning how to use his long arms at the line of scrimmage makes for a project I would be willing to stash on the 53 Man roster so you don’t lose him.

GRADE: C+

 

Joey Ivie – Defensive Tackle – Florida – Round 7, No. 228 Overall

I’m going to honest I didn’t watch any of Joey Ivie before he was drafted by the Cowboys, but man did I like what I saw once I turned on his film. Ivie is a disruptive Defensive Tackle that will likely play as a 3 Technique in Dallas’s 4-3 Scheme. He has powerful hands and knows how to use them to rip and swim to get around and under Offensive Lineman even with very short arms. Ivie’s game is built on his motor. Once the play starts he doesn’t stop until the next play. Ivie isn’t a flashy player but showed the ability to win one-on-one battles more so than he lost them. I like Ivie as the back up 3 Technique behind Maliek Collins especially if Tyrone Crawford and David Irving are going to primarily play Defensive End.

GRADE: C
Noah Brown – Wide Receiver – Ohio State – Round 7, No. 239 Overall

Another great value pick here for Dallas in the seventh round. Brown isn’t a burner and isn’t a great route runner but he uses his big frame to shield defenders and consistently bring in footballs with ease. Brown has a huge catch radius thanks to his long frame. At 6’2 222 lbs Brown looks and plays a lot like Dez Bryant. Brown is a red zone threat due to his size and has very sticky hands. The former Buckeye didn’t always have the easiest balls to catch due to the below average QB play at Ohio State but seemed to make highlight reel catches on a consistent basis. Brown loves to block which is something the Cowboys look for in their Wide Receivers. Brown is still learning the position and was supposed to be “the man” at Ohio State this year but with the spotty QB play and good running game not many footballs were thrown his way. Brown is a lot like Marquez White. The ceiling here is too high for me to cut or try and stash on the practice squad. If Brown pushes Brice Butler in training camp even after re-signing him in the offseason Noah Brown may be the new Brice Butler for the Dallas Cowboys.

Look familiar?

GRADE: B-

 

Jordan Carrell – Defensive Tackle – Colorado – Round 7, No. 248 Overall

Was a bit surprised to see another Defensive Tackle drafted after drafting Joey Ivie earlier in the seventh round. Carrell is a big Defensive Tackle that would play the 1 Technique position in Dallas. Carrell reminds me of Nick Hayden. He offers little pass rush but is a tough man to move in the run game. Carrell is likely a practice squad candidate with both Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea locked in at the 1 Technique position in Dallas for a few more years to come. Carrell looks like an Offensive Lineman and plays with the same amount of power as a Center or Guard. I like Carrell’s potential as a developmental Nose Tackle.

GRADE: C

 

As you can see the Cowboys are in complete rebuild mode on the Defense. I totally believe that the secondary will be improved from last year and look a lot different. Matching Awuzie, Woods, Lewis, and White with Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, and Orlando Scandrick makes for a very talented, crowded, and competitive secondary room. Competition brings out the best in people and we will have plenty of competition when Training-Camp rolls around. Defensive Line battles, Cornerback battles, Safety battles, and Wide Receiver battles all stemming from what happened in the 2017 NFL Draft.

 

Exciting times.

 

Got a Lot to Say From RVA – Follow me on Twitter- @connorx147

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