Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones’ Growing Impact

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The Dallas Cowboys 2015 first round draft pick Byron Jones is quietly developing into a star player for the improving defense.

It’s not often a Dallas Cowboys first round draft pick gets overlooked by fans and media alike but that’s exactly what happened with Byron Jones when his coverage took a backseat to the acquisitions of Randy Gregory and La’el Collins this spring.

Of the three first round talents that Dallas picked up this offseason, Byron Jones was the least headline grabby. Never mind his amazing combine workout. Forget about his unique set of skills that makes him so versatile. Forget everything that would normally drive Cowboys Nation into a feeding frenzy.

While the infatuation for Randy Gregory and La’el Collins has yet to subside (and right fully so), Byron Jones is now starting to command attention of his own.

"“He’s just playing well, Garrett said. “Everything we’ve given him over the course of the early part of the season, he’s seemed to handle the work well. Whether it’s covering a guy as a matchup for us, playing man-to-man defense, or going in at safety, playing some dime, playing some nickel, he just does a lot of good things. He’s around the football. He makes tackles. He’s a good football player.”"

From the start of training camp it was clear that the 6’0” 199lb rookie from Connecticut was something special. He was already splitting time at multiple positions, executing multiple coverages, and carrying out different assignments. A pretty far cry from how much former first rounder Morris Claiborne was handled.

"“It’s amazing that he’s been able to do this as a rookie,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli tells dallascowboys.com. “You’d be asking a lot of a veteran to do that, but he has handled everything well, he’s so conscientious, his attention to detail, but not just the assignments, the attention to detail in the skill development. That’s what I’m really impressed with.”More from Dallas CowboysWest coast, Texas coast, burnt toast: Cowboys don’t need more runsBrandin Cooks will change the way defenses play the Dallas CowboysWhy the Dallas Cowboys defensive X-Factor is EDGE Sam WilliamsDallas Cowboys: 3 head coach options if McCarthy fails in 2023Dallas Cowboys: Is CB Jourdan Lewis a tradeable asset?"

Last week, Jones took over as a starting safety and was on the field for all 62 defensive snaps. Since week one, Jones has been tasked with matching up on opposing tight ends. In traditionally one of the most difficult matchups on the field, Jones has found an increasing amount of success. What’s even more impressive is that he’s done so against arguably the two best TEs in the NFL.

When asked about his task of covering TEs becoming easier with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham now in his review mirror, Byron Jones responded,

"“Well, there’s still other good tight ends in the league, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m not sure how many I’ll see this year. I’ll try to build off of those performances and go forward.”"

Jones is proving to be more than just a TE-covering defensive back. He’s also covering outside receivers and slot receivers on a regular basis.  Jones has been a universal safety for the Dallas Cowboys, able to handle any task the Cowboys throw at him (ala Darren Woodson). Jones was asked earlier this week about what allows him to do so many different things…

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"“I guess, my athleticism,” Jones said. “The coaches they trust in me a lot to play any position so for me, knowing that they have that type of confidence in me, that brings my confidence level up and I just step to the challenge. It’s a little rough out there on the slot, guys [are] a lot quicker, no doubt about that, but this is a learning process and we go forward from there.”"

Jones isn’t lighting up the highlight reels with interceptions, and his responsibilities of covering the TE and slot receiver naturally yield a higher completion rate (compared to outside defensive backs), but Jones is developing at a steady rate and he’s growing into quite the versatile weapon in the process.

"“We anticipate him having a significant role for us going forward, Jason Garrett said in his weekly press conference. “Thought he did a good job. He’s a young player, so there’s some things that come up from a technical standpoint. There’s some other things that he might not be completely sound on because of his lack of experience. He’s one of those guys who works very hard at it and he improves before your eyes.”"

Next: Tony Romo is clearly the NFL MVP

Byron Jones has the skills, both mentally and physically, to be a star in this league. He’s processing and executing assignments with staggering success as a rookie and looks to be a key player on this Dallas Cowboys defense for years to come.