The Cowboys lost Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. Those four contributed 39 starts, 254 tackles, five interceptions and 28 pass breakups last season. The Cowboys had Orlando Scandrick on the trade block on draft day. He started 10 games last season and made 46 tackles, an interception and nine pass breakups.
That leaves free safety Byron Jones as the one constant in the Cowboys secondary.
“Like all things in life, when you’re having a good time it goes by fast,” Jones said, via the team website.
Jones has started 27 of a possible 32 games since the Cowboys drafted him in the first round in 2015. He played in the other five games. That gives him a leg up on most of the other defensive backs on the roster.
The Cowboys drafted four defensive backs and are counting on second-year cornerback Anthony Brown. Safety Jeff Heath, the projected starter opposite Jones, has started only 10 games in four seasons. That leaves Jones, Scandrick and free agent addition Nolan Carroll as the most veteran players in the team’s secondary.
“It’s nuts,” Jones said. “I remember when I came in I was looking at a guy who was in his third year, thinking, ‘Wow, he’s played a lot of football.’ Within an instant, I’m that guy.”
Jones plans on becoming a leader, filling a role Church had in the secondary as a team captain.
“It’s an opportunity to step up,” Jones said. “You’ve got older guys that are gone. What am I going to do to respond? For me, it’s stepping up and leading the young guys and steering them in the right direction so we can win some games.”