Dallas Cowboys elite safety trio looks to reshape Dallas defense

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys defense stands third in the NFL. Loaded with young ascending talent, it only stands to get better as the season wears on. They’ve reduced the points-against each week of the season, and as they welcome back some familiar faces, they stand to only get better.

One of faces making his way back onto the field is none other than last year’s breakout star, Jayron Kearse. Kearse was an afterthought signing back in the 2021 offseason. He quickly became the prize of the Dallas Cowboys free agent class under the tutelage of defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn.

A Pro Bowl snub last season, Kearse was re-signed to a modest two-year deal in the spring and expected to pick up right where he left off. Sadly injuries have held him back and aside from 42 snaps in Week 1, Kearse has been largely absent from the field (training camp, practices, games, and otherwise).

The Dallas Cowboys now have three of the best safeties in the NFL which could take their defense to new high

To see him making his way back in Week 5 is sight for sore eyes. While the defense has done fine in his stead, Kearse is a team leader and a versatile asset on the field. It’s not just his play the Dallas Cowboys welcome, but his ability to elevate others that is getting Cowboys Nation so excited.

Kearse joins a deep safety unit that already features two top-10 defensive backs. A crowded room indeed, but rest assured Dan Quinn will have no problems getting all three on the field together.

Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker have been beasts at the safety position this season. Hooker, another year removed from injuries, has quietly been one of the most effective coverage safeties in the NFL. The primary FS when Quinn goes single high, Hooker is rarely targeted, and in 169 coverage snaps, he’s allowed zero, I repeat, ZERO, EPA per target.

Malik Hooker is ranked third in the NFL in Successful Coverage Over Expected and his running mate, Donovan Wilson isn’t far behind. Dono, playing more box than back, has especially stood out this season. He’s been crashing the pocket and making plays on the regular for all to see. Dono is currently ranked seventh in the NFL in Successful Coverage Over Expected and has given up -0.071 in EPA/per target (meaning the offense loses when they target Dono).

How many great safeties are too many?

You can never have too many, you just need to learn to adapt. If you have three elite WRs you make sure you run 11 personnel a ton, right? Much the same is needed for defensive adjustments. Kearse traditionally plays a LB/SAF hybrid role anyway. It doesn’t take much to scheme him into one of those spots currently occupied by a LB, now does it?

Hooker has played 95% of the snaps (most since 2018) but he’s always in position and rarely targeted so he has minimal wear and tear. Wilson, on the other hand, plays in the mess. He’s battered and bruised. Having someone like Kearse back in the fold could potentially provide relief.

Regardless of how this goes down, the Dallas Cowboys are in a great situation at the safety position. They have three top-10 players on staff and a coordinator who knows how to use them all at the same time.

They let the Dallas Cowboys show multiple looks and match-up in multiple ways. They can help Quinn change the shape and versatility of his defense without taking from the brilliance the defense has already shown.

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How far we’ve come, Cowboys Nation….