Xavier Woods has heard talk about the Cowboys’ interest in Earl Thomas. The team’s current starting free safety insists it doesn’t faze him.
“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Woods said Saturday. “I just control what I can control. I have [the starting job] now, and I have no plan on giving it back.”
The Cowboys are giving Woods a chance to win the job amid talk that they remain interested in Thomas, who is in a contract holdout with the Seahawks.
Woods, 23, played 52.5 percent of the defensive snaps last season as a rookie. He got experience as the slot corner, and, on third down, at safety.
“I’m really comfortable,” Woods said. “That last five-game stretch of the season when I was starting, I believe not only me but all the young guys got really comfortable back there. That just led us to this point where we are right now.”
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett both called Woods a “play-maker.”
“Very smart, very instinctive. Always around the ball. A good tackler,” Garrett said Saturday. “I thought he picked things up really well last year. You can see he was a smart guy. Like with a lot of rookies, as they go, they become more comfortable. They become confident. They start cutting it loose a little bit. They start showing up. We felt like he deserved those opportunities and wanted to see him out there. I think he took advantage of them.”
Now, Woods has another opportunity after the Cowboys failed to acquire a free safety in the offseason. Thomas remains a possibility for the Cowboys, but Woods has no one in front of him on the depth chart right now.
Drafted 191st overall last season, he said he has “190 reasons” to be motivated when asked if the Thomas trade talk provided extra motivation.
“That’s all football is is just making the most of your opportunity,” Woods said. “When your number is called, answer that door, man. Don’t give them no reason to give that position back. Once you get it, don’t give it back. That’s my mindset.”