Mailbag: Where will Awuzie and Lewis fit in? Will the turnover problem be solved?

Here’s the mail, it never fails. It makes me wanna wag my tail. When it comes I wanna wail, “MAIL!”

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The Rookie Corners

I know there is disagreement on this, but I feel like Jourdan Lewis is better suited to play outside and Chidobe Awuzie is a better fit at the nickel.

While Lewis is an inch and a half shorter than Awuzie, that’s neutralized a bit by the fact that Lewis’ arms are an inch longer. So I’m no more worried about size disadvantages with Lewis outside than I am with Awuzie.

Both players were considered elite nickel corners coming out of school, but Awuzie’s production behind the line of scrimmage dwarfs that of Lewis. The Cowboys love to use calculated nickel blitzes, as we’ve often seen from Orlando Scandrick over the years. In his junior season at Colorado, Awuzie produced 4.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss. Lewis, for his entire career at Michigan, had 1.0 sack and 8.5 tackles for loss. The flip side of that argument is that Awuzie’s produced more because Lewis was asked to play outside more frequently, and that’s true. But that only furthers the point that Lewis is more adept at playing outside and it’s why he was asked to do it more often.

Lewis is sticky to the point that any height advantage someone like Brandon Marshall may have is nullified. Lewis has quick, fluid lower body, and he pairs that with some surprising physicality. When those skills are working in unison, there isn’t a single style of receiver that Lewis isn’t able to keep pinned to the sideline and prevent from getting to the inside. I think that skill set is more valuable on the outside than it is at nickel.

Both are good players (I think Lewis is better overall) but I believe their talents differ, and uniquely fit outside and at nickel.

For more insight on Awuzie and his ability, check out Laurie Horesh’s fantastic scouting report.

Winning the Turnover Battle

“Do you think the Cowboys will finally start forcing some turnovers this season?”

– Darnell via email

You sure hope so, don’t you?

Dallas was incredibly opportunistic in 2013 and 2014, forcing 59 turnovers combined over the two seasons. Things turned ugly in 2015 when the Cowboys forced only 11 turnovers. That tied the 1982 Baltimore Colts for the fewest turnovers forced in NFL history, but the Colts only played nine games in that strike-shortened season. Things improved a bit in 2016, with Dallas forcing 20 turnovers, but that was still only good for 19th in the NFL.

In many ways, the Cowboys have just been unlucky. They only forced six fumbles in 2015 and recovered three. They managed to jar 18 footballs loose in 2016 and recovered a much better percentage of those, scooping up 11. You’d still like to see that number increase. We’ve also seen Byron Jones fail to intercept passes that he gets his hands on, a fact that has frustrated the third-year safety.

Jourdan Lewis had six interceptions during his time at Michigan, and he broke up 20 passes in the 2015 season alone. Marquez White and Chidobe Awuzie also showed some ball skills during their final two seasons at school. Sixth round pick Xavier Woods picked off 14 passes in his final three seasons at Louisiana Tech, and free agent addition Nolan Carroll has eight career interceptions to his name.

Based solely on the law of averages, with some of the more instinctive players Dallas added in the secondary, I do believe Dallas should see an uptick in turnovers this season.

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