Dallas Cowboys: Nickel CB is the most important DB spot in NFC East

Chidobe Awuzie #24 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Chidobe Awuzie #24 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

In the NFC East slot receivers are king, that’s why having an elite nickel back is a requirement for the Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys made a curious move (or lack thereof) when they allowed Byron Jones to leave in free agency. Not only did they let their homegrown elite talent leave but they did virtually nothing to replace him at the top of the depth chart. Instead, they invested in a handful of middle depth chart guys and the biggest signing they had was re-upping inside nickel cornerback, Anthony Brown.

The NFL, as a whole, values cornerbacks immensely. Elite coverage men are some of the highest earners on defense (second only to pass-rushers) and cornerback is one of the premium positions teams aren’t afraid to target early in drafts. So why would the Dallas Cowboys be so indifferent regarding their most important cornerback spot on the team? It might be because they don’t consider the CB1 to be the most important cornerback spot…

The Super Bowl is the obvious goal for every aspiring team. But in order to compete for a Super Bowl, you have to first make the playoffs. And the best way to make the playoffs is by winning the division. That’s why we see so many teams focus on winning their division above all else.

It makes considerably more sense for the Dallas Cowboys to build their team to match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants than it does focusing on Super Bowl favorites like the Baltimore Ravens and/or Kansas City Chiefs (The two best teams in the NFL). Dallas NEEDS to be better than their division rivals first and foremost. And that’s why focusing the roster/scheme to beat them makes sense.

And that’s why valuing slot/nickel/inside cornerback is so important.

Look around the NFC East. Who are the best receivers in the division? Most would say Washington’s Terry McLaurin is top dog. Rated at PFF’s No. 6 receiver in the NFL, McLaurin is a beast to cover. He’s quick, crisp, and nuanced. If you’ve seen him play you understand why most consider him Washington’s top weapon.

Looking at New York the answer isn’t quite as clear. Golden Tate is accomplished but he’s 32-years old and not the guy he sued to be. Darius Slayton is probably the best in New York but he’s unaccomplished as whole and has a sub-60% completion percentage. The guy who led the team in receptions last season (despite only playing in 10 games) is Sterling Shepard.  He’s New York’s top target.

Then look at Philly. Some may say DeSean Jackson is their best weapon but given his innate ability to be perpetually hurt, I’m not sure he qualifies (only played 65 snaps last season). It’s probably the rookie Jalen Reagor who strikes the most fear.

So tell me, what do all of these top receiving targets have in common?

Yep, Terry McLaurin, Sterling Shepard, and Jalen Reagor all play out of the slot. So it makes sense the Dallas Cowboys apply more value inside than most teams. And it makes sense that’s the are they appear to placing their veteran coverage men.

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It’s not just about Anthony Brown either. The Dallas Cowboys are also said to be moving Chidobe Awuzie inside. Slated as a box safety, Chido offers a veteran presence inside to go along with Brown. And since box safeties are often asked to cover tight ends and slot receivers often, it’s important Dallas deploys capable options.

Looking at how the NFC East receiving corps are built, it’s no mystery why the Dallas Cowboys are using their veteran covermen inside and using their rookies on the outside. The division is loaded in slot receiver talent.

Next. 3 Reasons Chido is better served inside as slot CB/box safety. dark

Instead of promoting the second best cornerback from 2019 to play outside cornerback, Dallas may be keeping him inside to handle the slot with Anthony Brown. In the NFC East, nickel CB may be the most important CB.

  • Published on 05/21/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 05/21/2020 at 05:24 AM