Cowboys secondary looks set to lead to ‘defensive mentality switch’

Cowboys secondary looks set to lead to ‘defensive mentality switch’

from David Hellman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

OXNARD, Calif. – With all due respect to many former Cowboys defensive backs, something feels different in 2022.

It used to feel like a rite of summer to come to the West Coast and watch this team’s receivers put on a show. From Dez Bryant and Miles Austin to Amari Cooper and CD Lamb, it was commonplace until last year to watch Dallas take over training camp.

For the record, Lamb is playing well in his third NFL training camp. But this time it looks like more of a fair fight, because for all the criticism the Cowboys secondary has taken over the past decade, this one opened camp at the highest level possible.

“I feel like the defense is finally catching up and we can finally get the offense going with rushing plays and scoring and everything,” Anthony Brown said.

Brown was the perfect person to ask about the secondary. Make a list of Cowboys players enjoying the best first week of camp, and the seventh-year corner had better be on it. He picked six Dak Prescott on the first day of practice and has been able to maintain that level or performance over the last week. On Thursday, he showed his ability to recover by recovering a KaVontae Turpin fumble and breaking up a potential touchdown.

It was notable enough that Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy took the time to say that Brown — often criticized by fans and the media alike — often goes underappreciated.

“I think he’s a guy who should get more love from you guys. Just a suggestion,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s done a lot of good things. But more importantly, he is very, very consistent. What I love about AB is that he’s the same person every day.”

But it’s not just Brown. Trevon Diggs obviously deserves a mention as he looks to build on his first-team All-Pro selection in 2021. But even coming off an 11-interception season, there’s plenty of debate about where Diggs impacts the lineup of cover boys. NFL.

Back on the subject of Brown, Diggs said the Cowboys’ secondary feels forgotten. Maybe everyone is just holding their breath waiting to see if a defense that led the league with 34 touchdowns — including 17 interceptions by cornerbacks — can do it again.

“We’ve all done things, but we still haven’t gotten the respect we’ve needed,” Diggs said. “It’s nobody’s fault. We just have to go out there and show what we can do.”

The fun part is that there shouldn’t be much of a learning curve. Dan Quinn is back for another go at defensive coordinator, meaning the scheme remains much the same.

Quinn has reportedly offered to leave the Cowboys

Quinn has reportedly offered to leave the Cowboys

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told USA Today that he offered to leave Dallas if it would make things “easier” for head coach Mike McCarthy. Colin Cowherd weighs in on whether Quinn should have stayed or gone.

More importantly, the secondary itself is pretty much the same. All three starting cornerbacks are under contract for at least this season, and the front office kept defensive end Jayron Kearse for two years.

Damontae Kazee is gone from last year’s team, but even that loss was tempered by the decision to re-sign Malik Hooker, who played 446 snaps as Quinn’s third-string defense.

“Just coming back, I thought it was unfinished business and obviously the guys we had that I knew were coming back as well,” Hooker said.

All of this combined to create one of the deepest, oldest secondary films this franchise has had in quite some time. Even the back end of the depth chart looks promising, with a pair of highly-touted corners waiting right now and fourth-year safety Donovan Wilson rounding out the back end.

They will be tested soon. Through the first five weeks of the season, this group faces three of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and the LA Rams. It’s considered a pretty big step up to go from the Cowboys’ depleted defense corps to the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Ja’Mar Chase, Tee Higgins, Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II.

Not surprisingly, the Cowboys’ DBs say they’re up for the challenge. The strange thing is that in 2022 it is easier to believe them.

“I feel like when Jerry and those guys drafted us, we felt like they wanted to change the mentality of the defense,” sixth-year cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “We’ve had a few changes leading up to this point, but ultimately we’re getting to where we want to be defensively.”

David Hellman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion,” about the Mississippi State quarterback’s time.

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