Dallas Cowboys: Can the secondary get better on their own?

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have a problem in the secondary, they say they like who they have on the roster, but there are questions if they can get better.

The Dallas Cowboys coverage has been historically bad this season making many wonder if this team can really compete this season. In all fairness, injuries have taken their toll, but this secondary had issues even when healthy. So the question is can the Dallas Cowboys secondary get better with who they have?

The quick answer for many would be, “no”. But the more thought out long answer is we don’t know (although the signs are not looking up for this season). Watching the first three games, there is a lot of work to be done coverage, and while the unit did tighten up in the second half this last week, there are some warning signs this will be an ongoing issue.

As soon as Chidobe Awuzie was ruled out, cries from Cowboys Nation were heard everywhere. While Trevon Diggs looks really good for a rookie, asking him to be your number one corner is a tall task. It is an even bigger ask when you have very marginal play backing him up at safety.

First, I don’t put a ton of stock into the PFF rankings as there are some known issues with them. However, they are good for starting discussions even though I don’t fully believe the grades are the end all be all. So here we will start to see what PFF grades the Cowboys secondary as. Let me warn you, this may not be suitable for younger eyes.

Looking at corner, the rookie has the most snaps of all Cowboys corners. Three weeks in, Diggs is already at around 220. For perspective Chidobe had about 300 snaps his rookie year. We should always expect some hiccups for a rookie, but Diggs is graded at 50.6, the lowest graded corner on the Cowboys. Again, as a rookie starting outside in the CB1 role, struggles are guaranteed. That places Diggs at around 80th best corner according to PFF.

Ok, so what does that mean for the rest of the corners? Well, the best corner is Chidobe Awuzie at 66.9, sitting right at their 28th best corner. Daryl Worley at 61.7 is 48th, Jourdan Lewis at 54.9 is 73rd, and Anthony Brown at 51.3 is one spot above Diggs at 79th. Some of the context is slot versus outside, snap counts, and play called while they are on the field. However, outside of Awuzie, these numbers are not great.

Getting Awuzie back will help out a lot at corner, but with a rookie and some guys, and poor safety play, it will be hard to see the improvement many want to see. They will get better, but there is a lot of questions as to how much, and how long, it will take. If the pass rush can get more consistent, it should help as well, but right now there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

Safety is a real question. Xavier Woods has actually played really well, but he is only on one side of the field at a time. Woods is rated as the 6th best safety according to PFF. However it is the other side that needs a lot of improvement. The only safety to get enough snaps to be graded and ranked is Darian Thompson. At 50.4 he’s the 63rd best safety without much hope for improvement. Brandon Carr, did finally get some snaps at safety and already is rated higher. If we take out the  snap minimums, Carr would be sitting at 54th.

Carr should help out if he can fully transition and pick up the defense. Many thought we would see Carr earlier than we did and while he had a bad penalty, the secondary looked better in the second half when he came in. He had 20 snaps on Sunday and we should see him jump into the starter role next week.

So it’s feasible for the Cowboys secondary could get better naturally, but there are some things that need to happen.

First, the pass rush must get better and more consistent. In the next coming weeks the Cowboys are playing some quarterbacks that have been known to make big mistakes under pressure. Awuzie getting healthy will help alleviate having to play Brown, Lewis, and Worley more often. Carr getting more comfortable will help as well if he can take some pressure off of Diggs.

I know people will want Donovan Wilson and Reggie Robinson II to get snaps, but one is a rookie and the other has shown lapses in coverage when he has played. Right or wrong, it is how they are viewed by the coaching staff and while they may get some chances, they feel they are not ready to play, regardless of how much fans want to see it.

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Stephen Jones and Mike McCarthy both have said they like who they have in-house. With the Texans looking like they will get Earl Thomas (they haven’t yet signed him as of this writing) the safety market is really thin. Tony Jefferson has the injury concerns and his coverage skills were already being questioned. Eric Reid had the lowest coverage grades in the NFL last year for safeties who played at least 20% of the snaps. If the Cowboys want coverage, Reid may not be the best choice, regardless of everything else, he can tackle at least. We are strictly going to look at play here, so we will keep the rest of the conversation out of it for this context.

So the long answer is the Cowboys secondary can get better, but the trend does not give a lot of hope. HaHa Clinton-Dix was supposed to be the answer, but he was not good enough and cut in favor of Thompson, WIlson, and Robinson, that leaves a lot of questions to how good or bad he looked. While we wait to see what the Cowboys do, we all agree they need to do something. Thomas was the best free agent out there, and barring a miracle won’t be heading to Dallas.

Next. Dallas Cowboys Week 3 Grades: Aldon Smith, Trevon Diggs, and more. dark

Something has to give, let’s hope those in house will be as good as they thing they can be. We see you Charvarius Ward playing on the Chiefs.

  • Published on 09/29/2020 at 11:26 AM
  • Last updated at 09/29/2020 at 11:26 AM