The Cowboys drafted Byron Jones for his versatility, but it’s his versatility that’s stunted his development at safety.
Three times this season, the Cowboys have needed Jones to play cornerback in place of Morris Claiborne. He had not even practiced at the position since training camp until moving over in Week 11.
“When I played against Miami, I gave up a couple of deep shots on that one,” Jones said. “I did better against Carolina, and then of course, I gave up the big one against the Jets on the sidelines. It was tough. It was one of those things you’ve got to learn from. The margin of error at corner is very small. It was definitely a tough ball game.”
Jones gave up a 47-yard pass play to Miami’s Jarvis Landry in Week 11, allowed only two catches on four targets with two pass breakups against Carolina, and then let Jets receiver Kenbrell Thompkins get behind him for a 43-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal last week.
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Jones was one-on-one with Thompkins but was supposed to be playing off-man instead of press coverage.
“Going back to corner last week was tough on him,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “But he’s the next available at that point because there are so many details that don’t relate. There are so many things that do not relate at all, and, boy, he’s been good at it going in and doesn’t make a lot of assignment errors. The technique stuff can get to you.”
Jones has played better at safety than at corner this season. That likely will become his permanent position moving forward.
“He’s got such range in the middle of the field,” Marinelli said. “That kind of height and leverage and reach and speed in the middle, he’s kind of a sweeper back there. And he can go down on any guy back there and play man on the tight end, and he matches up real well As he moves forward, hopefully we can keep him at one position.”
Jones is just happy to have played as much as he has this season. He has played 743 of 927 defensive snaps, making 65 tackles and breaking up a team-leading 12 passes.
“For me, being a rookie, just being on the field has been beneficial,” Jones said.