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/Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer Dallas rookie cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (33) catches the ball during drills at Cowboys rookie minicamp practice at the Star in Frisco on Saturday, May 13, 2017. (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)
The Cowboys didn’t go light on the secondary in this year’s NFL draft.
They grabbed cornerbacks with their second and third picks in Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis. And before draft’s end, they also selected safety Xavier Woods and corner Marquez White in the sixth round.
How does the group look a month after the draft?
“Really good,” defensive backs coach Joe Baker said after Wednesday’s OTA run-through. “They’re all really smart, they love the game, just like we talked about through the draft process. They’re coming out and competing.”
Baker wasn’t unrealistic about how far the rookies have come in under a month. Sure, they need to get tighter on coverage and have a “long way to go.” But he’s seeing improvement each day. Their skills aren’t just cerebral, either. Even receiver Dez Bryant noted the unit’s swagger.
“They got attitude,” Bryant said Wednesday. “And that’s what I’m all about. They’re ready for battle.”
Most ready for battle among the newcomers is Awuzie. Baker said he’s moved Awuzie between corner, nickel and dime, and the second-round pick out of Colorado has been “remarkable” at each.
Hear Chidobe pronounce his name:
“He’s going to be really valuable to us,” Baker said. “You put a little bit more on guys like Chido because he has the versatility and intelligence to handle it.”
Lewis, Woods and White are moving around too, though not quite at Awuzie’s rate. Baker said with so much of the secondary roster for 2017 in flux, everyone’s playing more than one position at this point. And in Tuesday’s OTA that wasn’t open to the media, Baker was pleased that his group made “very few mistakes.”
It was inevitable the rookies DBs would need to step up after Dallas let seven defenders depart in free agency. Guys like 10-year vet Orlando Scandrick and 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones became the more experienced members of the Dallas secondary with the loss of locker-room leaders like Brandon Carr and Barry Church. And even Scandrick isn’t a sure bet to make the Dallas 53-man roster. His name already surfaced as a possible trade option during the draft. Baker seemed hesitant Wednesday about Scandrick’s role with the club going forward.
When asked about how Scandrick’s role has changed on the secondary, Baker was vague.
“So far it hasn’t,” Baker said. “Right now he’s our starting outside corner and he’ll go inside when we go to nickel.
“But again, we’re a long way to playing in games. So I guess we’ll see.”
Regardless of who slots where on the field come fall, Bryant’s pumped for the new kids on the block. They don’t come in “scared and exposed,” he said. And that’s earned them the three-time Pro Bowl receiver’s respect.
“I like the grit they had,” Bryant said. “They’re ballers.”