Safety has been a position that the Dallas Cowboys have largely ignored for the better part of the past two decades. For whatever reason, the Cowboys do not have the safety position very high on the priority list.
As a result, Dallas has had some poor secondary play over the years. That is not all because of safety — corner has been an adventure, too — but the point remains. Safety has been a glaring hole for years.
For the first time in what feels like a while, the Cowboys might actually have addressed the position in a positive way. The team added the likes of Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee, and Jayron Kearse to pair with Donovan Wilson. None are game-changing players, but all four bring something to the table.
Doesn't matter if it's Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee, or Jayron Kearse: the safety play through almost two full games appears to be dramatically better than previous seasons.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) September 19, 2021
COWBOYS MIGHT HAVE SOLID DEPTH AT SAFETY
When it was revealed that Wilson would not be suiting up against the Los Angeles Chargers in week two, many panicked about what Justin Herbert and company would do against the Cowboys. However, Dallas saw good play from the position even without Wilson on the field.
Malik Hooker made his season debut. The 2017 first-rounder was inked by the Cowboys in August after an injury-filled tenure with the Indianapolis Colts. Talent has not been the question with Hooker — the ability to stay healthy and be relied on has been.
It's been a long time since we've seen Malik Hooker play football.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 20, 2021
It was nice to see him make some plays in the run game in his first NFL action in awhile. pic.twitter.com/xWlIynjA6N
Hooker impressed in the snaps that he played on Sunday. He finished with three tackles and made some plays in run support. Dan Quinn played the former first-rounder in the box, and Hooker made a positive impact in that role.
Additionally, both Kearse and Kazee flashed on Sunday. Kearse, especially, impressed against the Chargers. The former Detroit Lions defensive back was all over the field, breaking up multiple passes, making plays in coverage, and coming away with an interception that was called back because of a questionable pass interference penalty.
Jayron Kearse INT that was flagged by the refs pic.twitter.com/3L8tvaABdD— Law Thomas (@LawsNation) September 23, 2021
Kearse was targeted four times, giving up two catches for just eight yards. When also factoring in his activity in run support, it was a very solid game for one of the newest defensive backs on the Cowboys roster.
Then there’s Kazee. The former Atlanta Falcons safety has made two keys already this season. Kazee forced a Chris Godwin fumble in the fourth quarter in week one that gave the Cowboys an opportunity to win. Versus the Chargers, he took advantage of a Justin Herbert mistake and came away with an interception at the end of the third quarter.
That play played an important role in ultimately Dallas winning the game. Two plays by Kazee prevented the opponent from putting up points on the board. That is something that we have not seen much of from the Cowboys defense in years past.
BIG NICKEL PACKAGE
Dan Quinn played all three of Hooker, Kearse, and Kazee on several occasions in week two. This is what Dan Quinn refers to as “big nickel”. All three made plays, so it is certainly smart to find a way to get all of them on the field.
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn said “big nickel” is his name for the personnel grouping when three safeties share a field at once. Team started Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker on Sunday.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 20, 2021
With Donovan Wilson expected to return in week three, we should probably expect to see a ton of the big nickel package moving forward. Quinn will find a role for all four safeties as long as they continue to make a positive impact on the field.
If week two is any indication, the Dallas Cowboys have some serious depth at a position that has largely been a weakness on the roster. All four bring important qualities to the table, which gives Quinn some flexibility and versatility with the defensive backfield.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
We broke down the safeties and how Dallas finally has a good problem at the position.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports