Why the Dallas Cowboys may go abnormally deep at defensive back

Maurice Canady (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Maurice Canady (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys may opt to keep more defensive backs this season than usual.

Building a Final-53 man roster is no small task. Whittling down from 90 players to 53 presents major challenges for a franchise like the Dallas Cowboys who must balance the short-term needs of this season with the long-term potential of players in future seasons.

And it’s for both of these reasons the Dallas Cowboys may go abnormally deep at cornerback and safety and keep more defensive backs than they traditionally keep.

From a numbers perspective, the depth chart doesn’t change much year over year. With rosters limited to just 53 (with an additional two that can bounce up from the practice squad on game day), teams are limited as to what they can do at each position group. Project players who can’t contribute in some form right away are hard to justify and sometimes the most talented player losses out to a more proven player.

Defensive back is one of the areas the Dallas Cowboys could deviate from the norm and go long in their depth. There are really two reasons as to why:

  1. Special teams values defensive players more than offensive players.
  2. The entire secondary is in the midst of a makeover and grooming replacements requires roster spots.

First let’s address the first: Special Teams

John Fassel, the Dallas Cowboys new special teams coach, values the tackling ability of defensive players on his coverage units. If given the choice, he’d opt for a defensive back over a receiver just about any day of the week.

As he attempts to turn the NFL’s worst special teams unit from 2019 into something respectable, he’s expected to get the full support of the coaching staff and front office. That means instead of keeping that extra WR or RB, the team will try to keep an extra LB or DB.

Next it’s the makeover that’s underway.

The Dallas Cowboys are reshuffling the deck in their secondary. They let their best cornerback Byron Jones walk in free agency this year and appear ready to let Chidobe AwuzieJourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix all hit the market next offseason.

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Dallas needs to keep the core group they’ve identified as 2021 contributors on the roster this season. They can’t afford to cut someone today who could be important tomorrow. Project players like Reggie Robinson and Donovan Wilson need to keep roster spots this year, even if the coaching staff doesn’t think they can contribute right away.

Traditionally the Dallas Cowboys keep eight or nine defensive backs on the final roster. Last season they deviated from that norm and went 10 deep (keeping five cornerbacks and five safeties). We should expect similar actions this season.

Chido, Brown, Woods, Trevon Diggs, and Clinton-Dix are all locks. Robinson, Lewis, and Daryl Worley are highly likely as well. But even Maurice Canady, Donovan Wilson, and Darian Thompson should be seen as strong possibilities.

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We’ll get into areas the Dallas Cowboys will need to go short in coming days (because for every position you go long you need to short somewhere else). But for now we should be prepared for extra DBs to make the cut. It’s for the short-term and long-term health of the club.

  • Published on 06/02/2020 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 06/02/2020 at 07:50 AM