Cowboys secondary seeks to lead ‘defending mindset shift’

Cowboys secondary seeks to lead ‘defending mindset shift’

By David Helmann
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

OXNARD, CA – With all due respect to many alumni Cowboys defensive backs, something looks different in 2022.

It used to be like a summer ritual to come to the West Coast and watch the receivers on this team put on a show. From Dez Bryant and Miles Austin to Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, it was common as recently as last year to watch a Dallas wide take over training camp.

For the record, Lamb is playing great in his third NFL training camp. But this time around, it feels more like a fair fight, because despite all the criticism the Cowboys secondary has faced over the past decade, this one has opened the camp at as high a level as possible.

“I feel like the defense is finally catching up, and we can finally match the offense with flash plays and points and everything,” Anthony Brown said.

Brown was the perfect guy to ask about high school. Make a list of the Cowboys players enjoying the best first week of camp, and the seventh-year corner better be on it. He picked six Dak Prescotts on the first day of practices, and he managed to maintain that level or that performance last week. On Thursday, he showed his recovery ability by taking a lost step over KaVontae Turpin and breaking up a potential touchdown.

It was quite remarkable that Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy took the time to say that Brown – often the subject of criticism from fans and the media – is often underestimated.

“I think he’s someone who should get more love from you guys. Just a suggestion,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s done a lot of good things. But more importantly he’s very, very consistent. What I love about AB is he’s the same guy every day.”

But it’s not just Brown. Clearly, Trevon Diggs is worth mentioning, as he looks to build on his first-team All-Pro selection in 2021. But even after an 11-steel season, there’s plenty of debate over where Diggs takes into account the pecking order of NFL coverage.

Going back to the point on Brown, Diggs said the Cowboys secondary felt left out. Maybe everyone is holding their breath, waiting to see if a defense that led the league with 34 takeaways — including 17 interceptions by its cornerbacks — can do it again.

“All of us, we’ve done things, we just haven’t gotten the respect we needed yet,” Diggs said. “It’s nobody’s fault. We just have to go out there and show what we can do.”

The funny thing is that there shouldn’t be much of a learning curve. Dan Quinn is back for another trip as defensive coordinator, which means the pattern remains essentially the same.

Quinn reportedly offered to leave the Cowboys

Quinn reportedly offered to leave the Cowboys

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told USA Today he offered to leave Dallas if it would make things “easier” for head coach Mike McCarthy. Colin Cowherd wonders if Quinn should have stayed or gone.

More important than that, the secondary itself is essentially the same. The three main cornerbacks are under contract for at least this season, and the front office has retained brand safety Jayron Kearse on a two-year contract.

Damontae Kazee left the team last year, but even that loss is mitigated by the decision to re-sign Malik Hooker, who played 446 snaps as Quinn’s third safety.

“Just to come back, I thought it was unfinished business, and obviously the guys we had that I knew were coming back too,” Hooker said.

It all combines to create one of the deepest and most veteran secondaries this franchise has had in quite some time. Even the back end of the depth chart looks promising, with a pair of very drawn corners waiting in the fenders and fourth-year safety Donovan Wilson rounding out the back end.

They will be tested soon. In the first five weeks of the season, this group faces three of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and the LA Rams. It represents a step up from defending the Cowboys’ exhausted receiver corps to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II.

Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys’ DBs say they’re up for the challenge. What is strange is that in 2022 it is easier to believe them.

“I feel like when Jerry and those guys drafted us, it was like they wanted to change their mentality on defense,” sixth-year corner Jourdan Lewis said. “We’ve had a few changes leading up to this point, but eventually we’re getting to where we want to be in defence.”

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in the production of “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” on the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State.


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