Fact: Cowboys Value DL Over Safety

Cowboys take a DL over safety in the NFL Draft and some find it perplexing. I do not.

Earl Thomas and the Cowboys have been trying to get on the same dance cards forever it seems. However, finally a free agent Thomas took the paycheck in Miami and this left the club’s fanbase a wee bit disappointed but they happily focused on the upcoming NFL Draft and its deep safety crop as the balm for their ills.

Jeff Heath just doesn’t get the love from the masses even though the coaching staff seems to be just fine with him. Dallas wasn’t able to pick until the bottom of the second round and Cowboys Nation was on pins and needles watching the draft unfold.

Maryland safety Darnell Savage was taken off the board in the first round by the Green Bay Packers with pick #21. Then the Oakland Raiders snapped up Mississippi State Safety Johnathan Abram with pick 27 the first round. Still, plenty of talent left on the board.

With the 15th pick of the second round, the Seatle Seahawks replaced the recently departed Earl Thomas with Utah safety Marquise Blair. Still plenty of talent on the board.

Finally, pick 26 of the second round arrives and the  Cowboys are on the clock looking at a safety board that included:

  • Chancey Gardner-Johnson – Florida
  • Taylor Rapp – Washington (my fav)
  • Juan Thornhill – Virginia
  • Amani Hooker – Iowa
  • Nasir Adderly – Delaware
  • Deionte Thompson – Alabama

As it turned out Jerry Jones and company were not even looking at safety at that point of the NFL Draft as they had their eyes on a very specific DL and they snapped up Central Florida DT Trysten Hill with high-fives and big smiles all around the room. They got their guy and he wasn’t a safety. He never was.

Adderly and Rapp and Thornhill all went before the end of the round and the Cowboys didn’t address the safety position until the sixth round where they got a guy who can grow into the role if he makes it out of camp.

The Cowboys are not averse to upgrading at any position. They have indeed been actively looking at the safety position and did talk to the Seahawks last season in regards to a trade for Thomas. They also reached out to Thomas in free agency but quickly found out he was out of their price range for the position. So yeah, Dallas would be fine with upgrading at safety. They want to.

However, there are two things that led the front office to eschew the position early and they are critical in understanding the team’s approach.

  1. Build your team from the inside out.
  2. Superior DL play makes your DB’s better.

Jeff Heath was not the reason the Rams racked up 273 yards on the ground against the Cowboys in last years playoff loss. Safety-play wasn’t why the Colts Marlon Mack went 27 carries for 139 yards and 2 TD’s in the 23-0 beat down by the Colts in week 15.  In truth, the club gave up a lot of yards on the ground towards the end of 2018 and the Rams zeroed in on Dallas’s inability to stop the run to gain their Super Bowl berth.

Safety wasn’t the problem. No David Irving and a hobbled Maliek Collins with no depth behind them was what sunk the Cowboys in LA. The Rams offensive linemen were able to get to the second level and seal off running lanes from the ‘Boys LB’s who were caught again and again having to try and sift thru traffic to get to the ball carrier only to do so several yards downfield. It was ugly and believe me when I say the rest of the league is fully aware as well. The bleeding had to be stopped and guru Rod Marinelli thinks Trysten Hill is the man to answer the call to arms for the Cowboys D.

Marinelli has been looking for “that” dynamic 3-tech since he got to Big-D. He has had to make do till now, but the Hill pick is his baby and now he (supposedly) has his man. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. What we do know, however, is the Cowboys did not have blinders on when they assessed the state of their team. They are fully aware of their biggest deficiency and have prioritized their needs. Using the tried and trusted method of building the team from the inside out. In Marinelli’s defense, four positions are key. 3-tech, weakside LB, CB, and SS. Dallas has two superior weakside LB’s in Sean Lee and LVE that are excellent in reprising the Derrick Brooks role. They have tasked newly acquired Trysten Hill with the Warren Sapp gig. The Ronde Barber CB position seems to be ably manned by either Byron Jones or Awuzie Chidobe. The John Lynch strong safety position is the last piece of the puzzle and though Heath is an able player and special teams ace, he is no John Lynch. Lynch had instincts and could bring the lumber. Big hits are not the apex of Heath’s game.

Rest assured, upgrading the position is on their radar. The SS of the future may even be on the team now. He may not arrive until next season. The club is aware, but they do have a plan and agree with it or not, there is no denying its existence.

Cowboys Nation is going to have to wait a while longer for the next Darren Woodson. Until then Jeff Heath is just going to have to do.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over


Steven Van Over

Senior Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Podcaster at SportsTalkLine
Senior Analyst, Editor, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. Started covering the Cowboys on CowboysNation.com. Moved to the same gig here and now head the NFL desk. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver

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