Friday, May 01, 2015

Dallas Cowboys thrilled to land UConn's Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn't about to reveal where former UConn defensive back Byron Jones stood on the team's draft board but in a press conference shortly after the Cowboys selected Jones with the 27th overall pick, Jones did confirm that he was among the top 15/16 players on their board.

The Cowboys aren't shy about trading up or down but Jones said there wasn't too much of an opportunity to do so in Thursday's first round so they waited. Their gleeful reaction was caught as ESPN and NFL Network after they selected Jones.

"We probably knew as much about him as anybody in the draft," Jerry Jones said. "(Former UConn coach  Paul) Pasqualoni (a former defensive coordinator with the Cowboys) coached him, we had a scout who knew his position coaches and spent a lot of time with him. We felt really good about our evaluation of Byron. He did play two years at safety as well as what he can do at corner so that was pretty prominent in our decision to take him."

Jerry Jones said finding a player who can play both cornerback and free safety was at the top of the Cowboys' wish list going into the draft. It is something his son Stephen, the team's director of player personnel, agreed with.

"We are trying to get length in the secondary so obviously he fits that and he is a really good football player, a really good person on and off the field, great character and I think we made a good, solid pick here," Stephen Jones said.

Jones made national news when he broke the broad jump record at the NFL Scouting Combine with a leap of 12-3 in addition to finishing with the best time in the 60-yard shuttle and just missing the top mark in the vertical jump. But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it was Jones' tape over the last four years that was the reason they selected him.

"He had an impressive combine workout but let's go back to his experience as a player," Garrett said. "Two year starter at safety, two year starter at corner, this is not a workout warrior that we drafted. We drafted a football player that we think plays the right way and has the opportunity to develop into a good player at a couple of different spots for us.

"He has the physical traits to go play safety even though he has played corner the last couple of years but what gives us a lot of confidence is you see him play free safety for two years as a starter. They had two really good corners when he was a young player coming to school there so they wanted to get him out on the field. You see that tape and you like what you see on that tape as a young player so I think it is a realistic projection for him to play corner in this league and also to play free safety.

"We do anticipate him starting out as a cornerback and depending on how the health of the secondary is, the opportunity to move him to safety is realistic."

The Cowboys' defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson also couldn't speak highly enough about Jones' talent and character in an interview also streamed on the team's official site.

"I remember meeting him at the combine for the first time and I was impressed with how he carried himself," Henderson said. "He was well dressed, he is a big guy, he will look you in the eye, shake your hand, he had a firm handshake and you thought 'this is a great kid.' When we went up to Connecticut and were able to work him out, the people there talked about his work ethic. What he did at the combine, he worked to do that, it is not like he was just a freak and he could jump out of the gym. He worked and improved himself in every area. He is a gym rat and everybody there had good things to say about him as a football player, as a person, as a worker and I think he fits with what we are trying to do here.

"We spend most of our games in nickel personnel and we are three corners on the field for the first snap of the game and we play like that for most of the game so the more cover guys that we have the better off we are. We went into a game with four corners and we got a corner hurt, now we only have three and we are out of our dime package. You are hoping that nobody else gets hurt having guys who can play both positions is going to help us moving forward to be able to function in the game better and keep our packages alive if we have a guy go down. Guys like this were the guys we were really focused on in this draft."


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