When the NFL 2021 regular season kicks off, is former sixth-rounder Anthony Brown set to start at cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys?
Former starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie left Dallas this offseason to join the Cincinnati Bengals as a free agent. That opened a roster spot beside rookie standout Trevon Diggs. And as of now, it’s looking like veteran corner Anthony Brown is the favorite to start come Week 1.
When looking at the group of corners on the roster, there’s not one established player. That may leave many fans scratching their heads.
A look at Anthony Brown
Over the past two seasons, we have seen Brown get buried in the depth chart. That is due to the emergence of Awuzie in 2019 and the arrival of Diggs in 2020. Before that, Brown was a name that was constantly making plays on the field.
The 27-year old had at least eight passes defended and one interception in his first three seasons. Tag that along with 50+ tackles in his first two seasons.
It was enough for the team to sign Brown to a three-year deal averaging $5.2 million last year. Despite the dip in opportunities, management clearly believes in his abilities.
Brown is now tied with two players at his position for the most years of NFL experience with five seasons under his belt. The other two players are Rashard Robinson and Maurice Canady. Brown leads the way in games played, tackles, passes defended, and interceptions among the three.
I believe there will be three other players competing for the CB2 spot in Dallas this summer. Among them are one familiar name and two new ones.
The biggest name to compete with Brown is the second-rounder from the 2021 NFL Draft. That is Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky. But considering his lack of experience and inconsistent play plus the difficult transition the rookie will have to make from the SEC to the NFL, Joseph needs time to develop.
The next-best bet would be 2017 third-rounder Jourdan Lewis, who’s been a regular contributor to the team as their slot corner since being drafted except for 2018. The 25-year-old was one of the few players to be spared from criticism for adjusting to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s scheme last season. While he gave up four touchdowns, he gave up only 8.7 yards per completion and accumulated 59 tackles.
Lewis is not a big-play corner and hasn’t had eye-popping stats since his 10 batted passes as a rookie. It’s safe to say he will likely remain the Cowboys’ slot corner.
The Cowboys had one of the worst reaches in the 2021 NFL Draft with the selection of Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright. Some, including NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, projected the corner as a seventh-rounder or even an undrafted free agent. His name was called late in the third round.
He was a reach but has impressed so far with the team. His six-foot four-inch frame was put to good use knocking down passes and intercepting the ball in minicamp and OTAs. According to DallasCowboys.com, head coach Mike McCarthy is loving what he is seeing.
“[Wright’s] made some plays. There are some technique things, which we all are going through right now at pretty much every position. But yeah, I really like the way that he’s jumped in here … He’s been aggressive, competitive. Definitely what you’re looking for in your young guys.”
Wright’s frame fits new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme, but it’s unclear how ready Wright is to step in right away. OTAs and minicamp are certainly very different than playing in an actual NFL game. His play is encouraging, but more work is needed before he gets meaningful snaps.
With that in mind, maybe we can see the tall frame called upon for cover-three zone plays. That is until we get a feel for how Nahshon handles NFL-level competition in a real game.
By default, Anthony Brown is the starter at CB2 for Week 1. It’s too early to throw Joseph or Wright into the mix. Lewis has been a stud in the slot, and he should stay there.
How the snaps get distributed will likely change as the season goes on. I see Nahshon Wright getting his fair share later on with Kelvin Joseph pushing to takeover at CB2. But for now, Anthony Brown appears to be the favorite to earn that starting job opposite Trevon Diggs in Week 1.