Dallas Cowboy defensive back Anthony Henry is staying at cornerback after all, despite talk that he would become a free safety. He’s relieved at the news, Nick Eatman reports.
Not since the days when Deion Sanders and Kevin Smith were manning the cornerback position about a decade ago have the Cowboys seemed to be in such solid shape on the corners. With Terence Newman on one side, Anthony Henry on the other and ageless wonder Aaron Glenn working the nickel defense, the Cowboys might have their best trio of cornerbacks at one time.
And it wasn’t easy. The Cowboys went to great lengths to find that security, drafting 10 corners from 2000 to 2004 and signing a handful of veterans along the way.
So now that the position is in its best shape in years, it just didn’t make sense to mess it up in the off-season.
Henry, who was rumored to possibly switch from cornerback to free safety, is staying put at corner. And that’s just fine with him. “Yeah, I really didn’t want to move at all,” Henry said of switching positions. “I know it was talked about. And I said I would do it if they wanted me to, but they sat me down and discussed it. We agreed I would stay at cornerback. And I was happy about that.”
Henry played some free safety in college and even had a few snaps at the position early in his career with the Browns, but the notion of him moving from cornerback picked up steam in the off-season when Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the team was entertaining the possibility.
And once Wade Phillips was named the new head coach back on Feb. 8, Henry said not long afterwards he went to Phillips’ office and asked him directly about the potential safety switch. “I went in there and talked to him about it,” Henry said. “He said he didn’t think it was going to be the case. They just wanted to know if the possibility came up, would I be ready for it. And I told him I would accept it if that’s what they needed from me. But I love cornerback and I’m glad to stay at cornerback.”
The Cowboys have been searching for more stability at free safety ever since Darren Woodson retired in 2004. And they can only hope four-year veteran Ken Hamlin, who signed a one-year deal in March, can fill the void. But the presence alone of Hamlin, along with the team’s high hopes for second-year veteran Pat Watkins, allowed the Cowboys to keep Henry at cornerback.
That’s probably the right move, since Hamlin and/or an improved Watkins should allow Roy Williams some breathing room. Ironically, even though he isn’t moving to safety, he’ll be doing some things that the safeties usually do.
Henry admits that because of a few technical changes in the defense, his cornerback position will have some safety-like aspects this season, much more than the corners have been used to in the past. And it starts with their overall stance. Instead of taking an inside position, where the corners try to flush the receivers to the outside to take away the crossing and slant routes, the Cowboys are turning their cornerbacks to the other side of the receivers. Now, instead of cutting off the middle, the corners will do more shading on the outside, trying to funnel the receivers towards the inside of the field.
The biggest difference, other than eliminating the receivers from an easy path for a deep route, is that the cornerbacks will not have their backs turned from the quarterback, allowing them to keep their eyes more on the ball.
“What we’re trying to do is keep vision on the football,” new Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. “If you have vision on the football, you have a chance to make an interception, you have a chance to make a big tackle. When you don’t have vision on the football, what you’re doing is eliminating some of the quick throws, so they won’t nickel and dime you, but you have the opportunity to get beat deep.
“Now, we’re saying we’re going to keep everything in front of you. If we want to stop the quick throws we can get into those types of defenses. But our base is to have vision, plant downhill, make clean tackles and make plays on the ball.”
The Cowboys have more weapons at defense than at any time since the mid-1990s. We’ll see if Wade Phillips can get them to actually play to their potential this season. If so, they’ll be playing well into January.
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