Amid complaints regarding the Cowboys having not done much to address their “glaring need” in the secondary. ... I'm less concerned than most.
First off, I don’t see that much of a need. Sure, they could certainly use a few improvements, but I don’t think fans are giving the guys they do have enough credit. I mean, this group was a top-five defense against the pass in 2015 (as deceiving as numbers like that can be) without its best player - Orlando Scandrick.
Brandon Carr can be called "reliable and consistent.'' Mo Claiborne can be characterized as being healthier and more confident than ever and is coming off the best season of his career. And Scandrick is one of the most underrated corners in the NFL. Most football people might argue that's a "solid'' trio.
On top of that, the Cowboys have Byron Jones at free safety, where he should thrive, and Barry Church can be very good when he’s allowed to stay down in the box.
Cornerback play from that trio is not necessarily a Cowboys strength. But it can help the 2016 edition of the team survive.
However, in today’s passing league, you need more than three good CB’s - especially when you consider Claiborne’s injury history. The Cowboys will likely carry six corners in 2016 but there’s a big difference between being the fourth guy and the sixth guy on the roster. The fourth corner will see some significant playing time on defense and is just an injury away from becoming a starter. The sixth corner will mostly play on special-teams, if at all?
So as OTAs are a week away, beyond the battle among those first three to improve ... who will battle his way atop the next handful of candidates to be the fourth corner for the Cowboys this year? I think it’s narrowed down to three names - Terrance Mitchell, Deji Olatoye and rookie Anthony Brown. All three of these guys have a fine shot at making the roster but they’ll be battling it out in camp/preseason to see which order they’re listed on the depth chart.
Let’s break down what each player brings to the table…
Weight: 192 lbs
Arm Length: 30 1/8”
Age at the Start of the 2016 Season: 24
40-Yard Dash: 4.63
Vertical Jump: 34”
Broad Jump: 9’9”
3-Cone Drill: 6.57 *Best among all CB’s at that year’s combine
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.00 *2nd best among all CB’s at that year’s combine
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.22 *2nd best among all CB’s at that year’s combine
Mitchell had 25 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, a fumble recovery and 4 forced fumbles in 3 years at Oregon. He was drafted by the Cowboys in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL draft but he was waived before the season started and signed with the Chicago Bears - where he recorded 2 pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble in the 2015 preseason.
After getting released by the Bears, the Cowboys brought him back for the final 3 games of 2015. In those games, Mitchell recorded 12 tackles, 2 pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. Mitchell can play in the slot as well as outside. He isn’t overly fast or physical but he makes up for that with feistiness, good technique and a high football IQ. At his best in zone coverage when he can keep things in front of him.
Weight: 193 lbs
Age at the Start of the 2016 Season: 25
Pro Day Results
40-Yard Dash: 4.46 *Would’ve been 8th best among all CB’s at that year’s combine
Bench Press: 13
Vertical Jump: 35.5”
Broad Jump: 10’9” *Would’ve been 7th best among all CB’s at that year’s combine
3-Cone Drill: 7.12
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32
Olatoye had 39 tackles, 11 pass breakups and 2 interceptions as a senior at North Carolina AT&T in 2013. He spent some time on the practice squad for the Ravens and Chiefs after going undrafted.
Olatoye ended up on Dallas’ practice squad in September of 2014, where he stayed until November of 2015. After the release of Corey White, Olatoye was moved to the active roster and started the final 2 games of the season for Dallas. In those two starts, Olatoye recorded 13 tackles, an interceptions and a pass breakup. His play was consistent, physical and he showed some good range. He’s good in both man and zone coverage and is the biggest CB on the roster. He has ideal size for what the Cowboys want at the position and in CHQ's dealings with him in the Valley Ranch locker room last season, Deji has his stuff together.
Weight: 192 lbs
Arm Length: 31 3/4”
Age at the Start of the 2016 Season: 22
40-Yard Dash: 4.35 *2nd best among all CB’s at this year’s combine
Bench Press: 19 *2nd best among all CB’s at this year’s combine
Vertical Jump: 35”
Broad Jump: 9’7”
3-Cone Drill: 7.03
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.19
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.19 *5th best among all CB’s at this year’s combine
Brown - a sixth-round pick by the Cowboys this year - recorded 60 tackles (including a tackle for a loss), 4 interceptions, 6 pass breakups and a fumble recovery at Purdue in 2015. He has good hands and a nose for the ball. Brown also has value on special teams. He’s solid in both man and zone but can be a bit grabby, which can be corrected with some technique work. Has the combination of size, strength, speed and confidence that you look for in a corner.
Brown might by at a disadvantage due to the fact that he’s just a rookie and hasn’t had as long as the other two guys to get acclimated to the playbook and scheme and the like. However, if he’s able to improve his technique, he has a shot to sneak up the depth chart.
These are the names to keep an eye on for "CB4'' during training camp and the preseason. Unless the Cowboys sign someone else before then (which doesn't seem the plan), I believe all three of these guys will make the final roster, but they’ll be wresting over who actually gets some significant snaps on defense. Each of them bring something specific to the table. Mitchell is technically sound and intelligent, Olatoye has the size the Cowboys want in their CB’s and Brown the speed to keep up with fast receivers. All three of them have their work cut out and whoever wins that fourth cornerback spot will have had to earn it.
Even though it’s super early, my money is on Olatoye winning that spot - but I could easily see it go any of these three directions. It’ll definitely be a fun battle to watch throughout the summer and like Jason Garrett preaches, competition will only make everyone better -- and that includes the top three guys on the CB depth chart.