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 Jaylon Smith – Facts vs Beliefs

Jaylon Smith Rehab

There are “facts” in the world of sports. It’s a fact the Dallas Cowboys nailed it in the 2016 NFL Draft. Taking RB Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick was bold. Maliek Collins in the third was a perfect example of a team doing excellent scouting. Dak Prescott in the fourth round …. are you kidding me? CB Anthony Brown in the sixth round …. pullleeeze! That’s killing it. That’s a fact.

There are also “beliefs” in the world of sports. Jerry Jones believes the team is going to be in the Super Bowl this season … as he does every year. Let’s be frank. Him believing in something and it happening aren’t exactly in the same zip code. When you get right down to it Jerry is big on beliefs, short on facts and HUGE on hype. I offer the latest Jaylon Smith hype moment as exhibit one.

Jerry “believes” TE Rico Gathers could have been activated for the playoff run last season. He wasn’t. Jerry “believes” SS Kavon Frazier could start this season. He has a chance. Jerry “believes” DE Charles Tapper is going to have a year that echos third round team mate Maliek Collins rookie season. He might. Jerry also “believes” former Norte Dame LB Jaylon Smith was THE BEST value pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and could have been activated for the 2016 playoffs. He isn’t and he wasn’t. Jerry and Jaylon also believe the player will recover “100 %!” He hasn’t and most likely at this juncture, will not.

The reality is that injuries, especially catastrophic ones have a recovery timeline and according to Dr. David J. Chao the chances of a 100% recovery are declining with each day the nerve has yet to get there. In other words, if he was going to recover 100% … he “most likely” already would have.

To put it bluntly, the longer the nerve does NOT recover the more likely it is the nerve WON’T recover. Jaylon Smith is a positive individual. It’s in his DNA. He uses this approach to achieve greatness. Jerry Jones does the same thing. There is nothing wrong with the approach or the individuals using it. Just understand that is what they are doing. Taking the absolute best possible outcome and staying focused on it until it is achieved. That is what belief can do for you.

In reality the entire situation was a “feel good” moment for the draft when the writing was on the wall quite early.

The player himself still firmly believes states the injury will recover 100%. Dr. Jerry Jones has vacillated from 100% recovery to him taking the viewpoint it will be great to get Smith “on the field.” In the real world however actual doctors like Chao all pretty much agree …. that was one gruesome injury and whereas it could heal 100% with each day it doesn’t the chances are less and less likely.

Fact #1 – the Dallas Cowboys killed it in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Fact #2 – Jaylon Smith, Rico Gathers, Kavon Frazier and Charles Tapper are talented possibilities you WANT on your team. However in reality they are “maybes” that get a chance in 2017 to live up to the promise of their 2016 draft positions. Nothing more.

Beliefs aren’t facts. However it’s much better to have some than not. Just ask a Brown’s fan.

What say you Sports Nation?

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