The Dallas Cowboys most underrated defensive back may be this man

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

We look at arguably the most unfairly criticized defensive back in the Dallas Cowboys secondary.

Naming the most unfairly criticized/underrated Dallas Cowboys player in a position group that’s nothing short of horrendous, is like being asked to pick your favorite fruit cake. They’re all pretty bad. But for the purpose of future team-building, just because the collective unit is poor, doesn’t mean all the pieces need to be thrown out.

The Dallas Cowboys secondary is a maligned unit, to say the least. They rank near the bottom of the league in most areas and if it wasn’t for a historically bad run defense, they’d be exposed even more than they currently are. Watching their ineptitude week after week has been exhausting for many fans. And while no one should be earning Pro Bowl honors anytime soon, some are worthy of a little grace.

Chidobe Awuzie, last season’s favorite cornerback to hate, has escaped criticism this year largely because he’s been injured for the past seven weeks. But given the current state of affairs in the Cowboys secondary, he’s an easy pick for the highest regarded player in the Dallas secondary this year.

Trevon Diggs has had a roller-coaster rookie season. Before his injury, he’d been burned on a weekly basis and was picked on more than almost every other CB in the league this season. But fans adored him because he showed ball-skills, unshakeable confidence, and a swagger not often seen ‘round these parts. I pointed out his good and bad in the article below that I compared him to Marcus Peters.

Related Story. Why Trevon Diggs could be the next Marcus Peters. light

Xavier Woods is Pro Football Focus’ highest rated Cowboys defensive back. Fans are disappointed in his lack of development but generally feel lucky to have him this year. So he largely avoids his fair share of blame.

Jourdan Lewis gets a lot of criticism for his missed plays, but frankly, he should be getting more. Lewis has played like the Terence Steele of the Cowboys secondary. He’s been a disaster across the board and is PFF’s 97th rated CB this season (out of 120), which is probably being generous. Still, the Lewis Hive remains strong and his fan club continues to insist he’s the best CB on this Cowboys roster.

The guy who gets the most underserved hate is probably Anthony Brown. Brown, the Cowboys 26-year-old CB with legit 4.35 speed, has been getting a huge chunk of criticism this past week so it seems like a great time to put things in perspective.

This isn’t to say Brown is underserving of criticism. His latest game was pretty darn bad. Most notably, he was burned for a TD against the Steelers when he overeagerly bit on a sluggo with no safety help. Those kind of lowlights get engrained in our minds.

But did you known that was the first TD he gave up this season? In six games this season, Brown is actually posting career bests across the board according to Pro Football Reference.  His 58.8% completion percentage when targeted is the best of his career (and happens to be the exact same percentage Byron Jones is allowing).

Brown’s 10.2 yards per completion and 6.0 yards per target are also the best of his career (both also both better than Byron this season). He’s given up some ugly plays but on average he’s 36th in the NFL in average target separation (1.12 yards of separation). Not to mention, Brown is credited with zero missed tackles so far this season which is basically unheard of.

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In all fairness, Brown’s coverage this season hasn’t been pretty. As someone who’s been watching the All-22, I can confidently say Brown has been sub-par. But I also have to point out Anthony Brown was signed to primarily play in the nickel matched up against the slot receiver. He can handle duel releases well and mirror some of the quickest and fastest inside men in the NFL. that’s his expertise.

But this season he’s played only 14.6 % of his snaps (65) inside at slot. While some of Browns value is his ability to wear both hats and line up inside and outside, he’s primarily regarded as a nickel back.

I’m not in the habit of giving out passes to players – especially in extremely disappointing seasons like the one we’re currently floating through, but there are a dozen players on the Dallas Cowboys who deserve more criticism than Brown is getting right now. Statistically, Brown is the least of Dallas’ concerns on defense right now.

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Finding positive articles in these circumstances isn’t easy these day, and if I had to grade Anthony Brown’s coverage this season, I’d give him a failing mark. But statistically, he’s surviving, and the fact that he’s playing out of position inside a dysfunctional environment, I’d suggest we apply some restraint when evaluating his play this year.

  • Published on 11/17/2020 at 12:09 PM
  • Last updated at 11/17/2020 at 12:14 PM