Byron Jones sees an opportunity to become more of a leader this season.
With veteran secondary players such as Barry Church and Brandon Carr bolting in free agency, Jones finds himself as one of the Dallas Cowboys’ more experienced players in the defensive back room.
It wasn’t that long ago that Jones was considered the “new guy,” a first-round pick out of Connecticut in 2015.
“It’s nuts when you think about it,” Jones said. “I remember when I came out, I was looking at a guy going into his third year and I’m like, ‘Wow, he’s played a lot of football.’ Within an instant I’m that guy. It goes by fast.
“It’s like all things in life – when you’re having a good time, it goes by fast. But it’s an incredible opportunity for me to step up.”
Jones, 24, is coming off another productive season. He had 102 tackles, according to the coaches’ breakdown, with three tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed and his first career interception.
But Jones drew the ire of several fans in the playoff loss to Green Bay. Jones was in coverage when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Jared Cook to convert a third-and-20 and set up what became the game-winning field goal.
Going into Year 3, though, Jones is looking to take more strides on and off the field. On the field, he would like to force more takeaways. He didn’t get his first takeaway until coming down with an interception off Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston at the end of the first half in Week 15.
“I’m doing a decent job tackling, doing a good job covering, but making those big plays and interceptions,” Jones said. “Getting the ball out someway, somehow.”
Jones said he has spent this off-season getting more “comfortable around the ball.” That means he’s constantly catching as many balls as possible in hopes it carries over into the games.
Off the field, Jones is looking to become more of a leader. The Cowboys have a young secondary, using four draft picks to replenish their secondary in this year’s draft.
They selected cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second- and third-round, safety Xavier Woods in the sixth and another cornerback, Marquez White, in the sixth.
“We’ve got older guys who are gone, off to different teams. Now what am I going to do to respond?” Jones said. “For me, it’s stepping up and leading the young guys and trying to steer them in the right direction so we can win some games.
“I’m a guy who is not going to talk a lot, not going to hoorah and stuff like that. But follow me and I’ll show you the way.”
Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule
Aug. 3 vs. Arizona (NBC)* 7 p.m.
Aug. 12 at Los Angeles Rams (NFL Network) 8 p.m.
Aug. 19 vs. Indianapolis (NFL Network) 6 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Oakland 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Houston 7 p.m.
* Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio
Sept. 10 vs. New York Giants (KXAS/5) 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Denver (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Arizona (ESPN) 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 vs. Los Angeles Rams (KDFW/4) Noon
Oct. 8 vs. Green Bay (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Oct. 15 Bye
Oct. 22 at San Francisco (KDFW/4) 3:05 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Washington (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Nov. 5 vs. Kansas City (KTVT 11) 3:25 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Atlanta (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Nov. 19 vs. Philadelphia (KXAS/5) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. LA Chargers (KTVT/11) 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 vs. Washington (KXAS/5) 7:25 p.m.
Dec. 10 at New York Giants (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Dec. 17 at Raiders (KXAS/5) 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 24 vs. Seattle (KDFW/4) 3:25 p.m.
Dec. 31 at Philadelphia (KDFW/4) Noon