Dallas Cowboys: Forget Earl, make Chidobe Awuzie the new safety

Chidobe Awuzie #24 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Chidobe Awuzie #24 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Maybe the answer at safety for the Dallas Cowboys was under our noses the entire time and moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety is the perfect solution.

Last season the Dallas Cowboys upgraded their secondary simply by moving their free safety to cornerback. What if doing the same thing (only vice versa) could have the same results?

No, I’m not suggesting Byron Jones moves back to free safety. I’m saying another defensive back with position flex makes the move. I’m saying Chidobe Awuzie moves to free safety.

I’ve spent the better part of the winter reviewing the All-22 from the 2018 season, specifically focusing on the Dallas Cowboys secondary. My verdict: Chidobe is a good player uncomfortable in his current role.

Chidobe is an Experienced Safety

Chidobe Awuzie entered the draft as a man without a set position. Some scouts saw him as a safety and others saw him as a cornerback. At Colorado he played both, which included inside in the slot. The Dallas Cowboys saw value at corner and his length allowed him to slide into the starting role on the outside.

Unfortunately, this exposed one of his biggest weaknesses and ignored a couple of his biggest strengths.

Ball Skills

Contrary to popular belief, Chidobe Awuzie does indeed have ball skills. You wouldn’t know it by watching him play recently because seemingly never looks back for the ball no matter how transparent the situation and catchable the ball may be. But not all ball skills are the same and Awuzie’s ball skills appear to just be a different type.

Chidobe struggled playing with his back to the quarterback and looking back to the ball. And according to his college scouting report, that’s nothing new. Chidobe’s ball skills are facing the quarterback either in off-coverage from the slot or deep zone coverage from safety. If he can see the ball, he’ll go get the ball. Unfortunately he’s rarely in this position in his current role since he’s manning Kris Richard’s outside corner position.

Awuzie is being asked to be something he’s never been good at so it shouldn’t be surprising he’s struggling. Pro Football Focus rated graded him as the NFL’s 70th ranked CB last season – not exactly the level of play we were expecting.

The Blitzer

Upon being drafted, I pointed out his dominance as a blitzing DB lined up over the TE and/or slot. Rod Marinelli’s defense (and Kris Richard’s as well) doesn’t like blitzing very often. But something Marinelli does like to do is blitz his defensive backs catch opponents off-guard.

Most teams lean on their linebackers to provided added pressure. But Rod historically uses his DBs. Orlando Scandrick was often tasked with this, and despite being personally terrible at it, Scandy found some success because opponents rarely saw it coming.

Sadly the move to the edge no longer allowed Awuzie to blitz from inside the numbers, and the blitzing job shifted to Heath and Brown. If Awuzie moved back to safety he could resume this role he did so well in college.

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At interchangeable secondary

Position flex is important to the Dallas Cowboys and with Awuzie playing primarily at safety, Dallas could use Xavier Woods and him interchangeably at either safety spot. Jeff Heath would provide depth and the Dallas Cowboys can give Jourdan Lewis the shot he deserves on the outside.

Best yet, such a move wouldn’t prevent the Dallas Cowboys from jumping on any free agent bargains at safety or keep them from drafting high-value cornerbacks or safeties in the NFL Draft.

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Earl Thomas is great, but perhaps the real answer at safety has been under the Dallas Cowboys noses the entire time. Maybe it’s time to move Awuzie from CB to S and see if they can repeat the success they found with Byron Jones.

  • Published on 03/07/2019 at 12:00 PM
  • Last updated at 03/07/2019 at 07:02 AM