With the main wave of free agency behind us, it’s time to start getting to know some of Miami’s newest acquisitions, and none were more splashy than Byron Jones. Jones was drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by Dallas, with whom he spent his first five seasons. As such, I reached out to the managing editor of Blogging the Boys, Dave Halprin, who was kind enough to answer my questions about Miami’s new impact cornerback.
1. What type of offer were you expecting to see Byron Jones receive in free agency, and what did you think of the contract he got from the Dolphins?
For a while, most observers of the Cowboys have thought that Jones would get a deal that made him the highest-paid cornerback in the league. We also have known for quite a while that the Cowboys were not going to re-sign him. The deal that the Dolphins came in with was very much in line with what I thought he was going to get. No surprise there.
2. I remember seeing Jones’ outstanding work against Michael Thomas last year. Was Jones asked to shadow an opposing team’s top receiver, and if so, how often?
No, the Cowboys did not move their corners around, it just wasn’t part of their defensive philosophy. So Jones spent most of his time on one side of the field unless a specific defense had him moving around, but that was very rare.
3. I saw that Jones played both free safety and cornerback in Dallas. Please give us a little background on his position changes in Dallas and what makes him such a versatile player.
When the Cowboys first drafted him, they actually used him as a corner but he did move between positions (corner & safety) in his first year. In his second year, the Cowboys moved him to safety and that’s where he played exclusively for a couple of years. That was not his best position. He was okay as a safety but never seemed to reach the potential of what was expected of him. In 2018 the Cowboys moved him back to corner full-time and that was when he really started to ascend. His play over the last two years is what the Dolphins are paying for and he has been excellent.
4. How would you see Jones fitting into an aggressive man coverage scheme (single high safety, cover zero, etc.)?
The Cowboys played a lot of single-high safety, I mean a lot. So there is no doubt that he would fit quite well into that defense since that’s what he has been doing for the past couple of years.
5. The Cowboys drafted Jones in 2015. How did he develop and improve in Dallas over the past 5 seasons? What were some of his early struggles?
This kind of goes along with what was answered above. The Cowboys tried to use him as a safety and that didn’t really work out. He was fair in that position, but he would sometimes take bad angles and be caught out of position. Surveying the field, reading offensive routes and then reacting just never truly clicked for him Given his incredible physical gifts, things really took a turn for the better when the Cowboys put him out on one side of the field and said cover whoever is over there.
6. What are the strengths in Jones’ game? If there were any weaknesses or areas where he could still improve on, what would those be?
Jones has incredible physical ability; he is fluid in movement and has the speed to stay with any receiver. He does a really good job of mirroring his opponent and keeping blanket coverage on him. He also has the size to match up with the larger receivers or tight ends that split wide. Quarterbacks didn’t really test him all that much, preferring to attack some of the other Cowboys defenders.
His one major downside is he doesn’t really create turnovers. He’s been in the league for five years, has played in 79 games and only has two interceptions. He is not a ball-hawk, at least he hasn’t been in Dallas. Of course, the Cowboys secondary in general has struggled creating turnovers, so maybe he’ll have more luck elsewhere.
7. To those who would question why Jones only had 2 interceptions in 5 seasons, what would your response be?
We’ve been trying to figure that out ourselves. The Cowboys secondary has failed to create turnovers and Jones has been a part of that. As for why, it’s hard to say. There’s been theories about coaching, about the Cowboys style of defense, the failure of the pass rush, some combination of all that. I can’t really give you an exact answer. Some guys just see the ball better and get after it, and are more of risk-takers. Jones may just be on the conservative side of that scale.
Again, a big thanks to Dave for his time and insight on Jones. With Jones’ physical gifts and extensive experience in handling outside receivers on an island, he seems like he shouldn’t miss a step in Miami. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this defense will look like whenever we’re able to watch them take the field next.