Why the Cowboys’ new coach could move Byron Jones to cornerback

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 13: Byron Jones
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 13: Byron Jones /

With the pending hire of Seattle’s Kris Richard, Byron Jones may be asked to move to cornerback for the Cowboys. Here’s why…

Word broke Monday night the Dallas Cowboys have come to an agreement with former Seattle defensive coordinator, Kris Richard. Richard will reportedly join the Cowboys staff as the defensive backs coach, passing game coordinator, and presumably the heir apparent to current coordinator, Rod Maninelli.

The fit is a natural one since Marinelli molded the Cowboys defense in the image of Pete Carroll’s from the start. Since this scheme requires oodles of press man coverage on the outside, long and physical corners are needed. This need, combined with Byron Jones’ pedestrian play at safety, may signal a position change for the former first round pick.

Byron Jones

Many will argue Byron Jones is a misunderstood player who shines in film review rather than the stat sheet. And those people are right. Jones is usually at the right place at the right time. He plays smart and rarely gets embarrassed. But the uber-athletic fourth year player also rarely makes plays. And that’s precisely what he was drafted to do.

Stats may be overrated but they still often dictate the course of a game. Jones was brought in to be a playmaker and right now he’s nothing more than just a guy. At only 25-years old, he still has time to redefine his role. That role could be at cornerback.

The Fit

When Rod Marinelli first came to the Cowboys, he clearly modeled the team after the Seahawks. Marinelli and Pete Carroll were both once Monte Kiffin disciples. Carroll had recently taken the Kiffin model to the next level, leaning heavily on the single high safety defense. From there the Legion of Boom was born.

Related Story: Understanding the Cowboys' move to single high safety

The single high safety defense is essentially a scheme that rushes the front four, matches the outside corners in press man coverage and/or bump and chase coverage, and uses one safety in the box and one in centerfield.

The nickel corner, linebackers and strong safety often alternate between man and zone in an effort to disguise coverage and force quarterbacks to make post-snap reads and decisions.

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Having strong cornerbacks is key in this system. Outside corners must be strong enough to be physical at the line, but disciplined enough to not get cast aside or beat.

Since the single high scheme often asks them to bump and chance down the sideline, essentially making them responsible for the back 1/3, they need recovery speed and ability to look back for the ball. Length is also key since the corners want to reduce windows and back shoulder catches as much as possible.

You don’t have to be 6’3” like Richard Sherman but it certainly helps.

While Byron Jones doesn’t have the height of Sherman, he does have the reach. Blessed with freakishly long arms, Jones has the same 32” arm length as Sherman. This together with his enormous hands and superior leaping ability, Jones has the ability to make up for the missing two inches in height.

Position Flex

Position flex helps considerably. Not only is Byron Jones at his best matched up in man coverage, but the other members of the secondary are equally as adaptable.  Chidobe Awuzie, another physical and savvy corner, could man the other spot on the outside. Jourdan Lewis looks like he could match up inside or outside.

Kavon Frazier looks like that Barry Church in-the-box thumper that’s been missing. And Xavier Woods looks like he may have the skill to play centerfield (until, of course the Cowboys poach Earl Thomas from Seattle). With so many versatile parts in the secondary, the Cowboys could adjust a number of different ways.

Next: Earl Thomas wants to be a Cowboy

Kris Richard is an amazing hire for the Dallas Cowboys and while there will be continuity in the scheme, there may be changes in the roles. One change could involve moving Byron Jones to cornerback.