Dallas Cowboys ‘Would You Rather’: Jourdan Lewis or C.J. Goodwin

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Free agency is fast approaching and the Dallas Cowboys have decisions to make regarding a few of their players on expiring deals. While quarterback Dak Prescott dominates most of these conversations (and rightfully so), there’s plenty of important decisions regarding the bottom of the roster as well.

Yesterday, Sport DFW writer Walter Sharp made his recommendations. I’ve spoken on a handful of players as well (including Aldon Smith and Chidobe Awuzie). Today I want to talk about a pair of reserve defensive backs: C.J. Goodwin and Jourdan Lewis

If you had to pick one, would you want the Dallas Cowboys to keep Jourdan Lewis or C.J. Goodwin?

To many Dallas Cowboys fans, their first instinct will be to laugh at such a preposterous idea. To them, Jourdan Lewis is just shy of being the second coming of Deion Sanders‘ (OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still…).

To say Jourdan Lewis has unwarranted support in Cowboys Nation is a massive understatement. Despite being on the team for four years, playing in two different systems, and under three different secondary coaches, Lewis has failed to crack the starting lineup by pure play.

Only as an injury replacement or as dime back has Lewis been able to get on the field. And it’s not like a team of Pro Bowlers is beating him out either. A top-3 spot has been quite attainable given Dallas’ roster, Lewis just hasn’t been good enough to beat out his fairly pedestrian competition.

The Legend of Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan Lewis came to the Dallas Cowboys with a ton of draft buzz. He had ball skills and a highlight reel that rivaled anyone in the draft. The problem was he was small, not very fast, and had some troubling legal issues festering off-the-field (later cleared up).

So Dallas got a steal in the third round and fans like me rejoiced. After the injury bug hit Dallas early in 2017, Lewis got his opportunity to start. And he did quite well, even getting in some rookie of the year conversations early.

But Lewis eventually started getting exposed. For every great highlight play he provided, he offered up and handful of bad plays. Once fellow rookie Awuzie was healthy, he reclaimed the job from Lewis. And never gave it up.

With the exception of being an injury replacement, Lewis has never been able to claim a top-3 spot in the lineup. His 817 snaps last season were the most of his career, as were his 13 starts. How well did he do with his biggest opportunity to date?

Not great, Bob.

How good is Jourdan Lewis?

In a group of 121 gradable players, Pro Football Focus gave Lewis a score of 48.1 (lowest of his career) which ranked him 107 of 121. Not what you want to see from a guy in a contract year getting his biggest career opportunity to-date.

It’s those highlights fans remember and why there’s such a disconnect between the Lewis Hive and reality.

The thing that makes this so hard to digest is Lewis wasn’t consistently terrible. Since the day Jourdan arrived in Dallas back in 2017, he’s made plays. Every season he flashes the skills that keep his fanclub on the hook.

Sandwiching in one great highlight in between a half-dozen bad plays has been a staple of Lewis’ play over the years. It’s those highlights fans remember and why there’s such a disconnect between the Lewis Hive and reality.

With all of that said, Jourdan Lewis isn’t a terrible football player. He may be too small to play the boundary in a Cover 3, but he has the tackling ability and ball-skills to contribute in other areas like both safety spots (he actually took 128 snaps in-the-box compared to just 17 as a free safety) and at slot cornerback (614 snaps in 2020).

He’s a rock solid tackler (he’s always kept his missed tackle percentage below 8%) and his completion percentage allowed when targeted and passer rating when targeted are roughly the same as both Anthony Brown and Chido.

The point is he’s not worthless. The point is he’s also not worth much.

How good is C.J. Goodwin?

There’s a reason 90% of this article is about Lewis and not C.J. Goodwin. C.J. Goodwin is what he is and there’s not much else that’s open to interpretation or even all that debatable.

If you only vaguely know of Goodwin, it’s for good reason – he’s a special teams specialist. 322 of his 339 snaps were on special teams. And if you go back and watch the film, you’ll see the 6-foot-3 ace making play after play.

For those as old as me, Goodwin likely conjures up memories of Kenneth Gant (aka “the Shark”). He dominates the opposition’s attention and still makes most of the plays. It’s mindboggling.

If you’re looking for a fourth cornerback (which is all Lewis’ ceiling is in Dallas) then Lewis is the better player. But Dallas already has their replacement to Lewis in Maurice Canady. Canady opted out last season but remains signed on a team friendly deal for 2021. While Lewis ranked as the 107th CB in his last season, Canady last ranked 25th. And Canady has the ability to play outside in a Cover 3.

What Dallas needs from their reserve defensive backs is special teams ability. Goodwin is elite in that regard. Lewis didn’t play a single special teams snap last year.

All things equal – Goodwin is the pick

More from Dallas Cowboys

As recently as the 2019 offseason I was still all-in on the Jourdan Lewis train. Seeing that Anthony Brown was going to be a free agent after the upcoming 2019 season, I saw 2020 as Lewis’ year and I spoke about it in The Future for Jourdan Lewis is Bright in Dallas.  Not too long after penning the piece, the Dallas Cowboys kicked dirt over my idea, re-signing Anthony Brown and all but sealing Lewis’ fate.

As if anyone needed further convincing, Lewis would go on to play quite poorly as he logged a career-high in snaps played in 2020. He wasn’t worthless by any means,  but he was by far the Dallas Cowboys lowest rated CB on the roster.

C.J. Goodwin knows exactly who he is and he’s not going to be hard to re-sign if Dallas wants to. A one-year deal for near the veteran minimum seems like it’ll get the job done and ya know what? It’ll be money well spent.

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It’s time to move on from Jourdan Lewis and he probably feels the same. He may develop into a top-3 player some day but it won’t be in Dallas and it won’t be outside in a Cover 3 system. It’s time for the Lewis Hive to disband. And it’s time to give some love to C.J. Goodwin.

  • Published on 01/26/2021 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 01/26/2021 at 11:07 AM