Dallas Cowboys focus on defense on Day 2 of NFL draft

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Cowboys doubled down on their plan to add cornerbacks, using both picks at that spot on the second night of the NFL draft Friday while again wading into the uncertainty of a domestic violence case.

Dallas selected Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie 60th overall in the second round, not a surprising move after losing two starters in free agency in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.

Then the Cowboys went cornerback again with the 92nd overall pick in the third round, taking Jourdan Lewis, a Michigan teammate of Dallas’ first-round choice, defensive end Taco Charlton.

Lewis is facing a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Ann Arbor over an incident with his live-in girlfriend and currently has a trial date of July 24, the day of the first practice at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California.

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Two years ago, Dallas added Greg Hardy in free agency and endured a tumultuous year that in some instances revolved around a domestic case in North Carolina.

Last year’s fourth overall pick, 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, was investigated over a domestic complaint not long before his first training camp. He still hasn’t been cleared by the NFL even though no charges were brought.

The Cowboys were comfortable picking Lewis because their second-year safeties coach, Greg Jackson, was Lewis’ position coach with the Wolverines in 2015.

“Our guys did a tremendous job researching this situation, doing our due diligence,” coach Jason Garrett said. “(Jackson) knows him well. We know the coaches up there well. All the due diligence we did made us feel very comfortable with the situation.”

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Lewis said he expected to be cleared in the case, which stemmed from a March dispute over whether a light was left on. The woman said Lewis dragged her across a room and grabbed her by the neck. Lewis said he may have grabbed her there but was trying to get her off him and wasn’t trying to hurt the woman.

“I’m completely innocent,” said Lewis, an Associated Press All-America selection last season and Michigan’s career leader with 45 pass breakups. “I believe that wholeheartedly.”

Awuzie had five interceptions in four seasons with the Buffaloes. His 26 tackles for loss were the most for a defensive back in school history. He played cornerback and both safety spots.

“They know they can put me anywhere,” said Awuzie, who said the Cowboys have already talked to him about playing all over the secondary. “I am going to embrace the underdog role, and no matter where they line me up, I’m going to outperform the next guy.”

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In the first round Thursday, the Cowboys tried to bolster a mediocre pass rush by taking Charlton 28th overall.

Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said after the opening night of the draft that the Cowboys went with Charlton because they thought the options were getting limited with pass rushers while the pool of potential cornerbacks remained deep.

And Dallas stuck with the plan — twice.

The Cowboys had eight interceptions two years ago when they were last in the NFL in takeaways and turnover margin, and just nine last season when their offense carried them to the top seed in the NFC behind a pair of rookie sensations in Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Cornerbacks accounted for just four interceptions last year, and none of them had more than one. And the biggest play of the season was a letdown in the secondary, when Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers completed a 36-yard pass to Jared Cook to set up a final-play field goal for the win in a divisional playoff game.

Even with the loss of Carr and Claiborne, Dallas has two capable starters in Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown, another promising young player from last year’s draft, one of the best in franchise history.

But the Cowboys are still searching for an impact player five years after signing Carr to a big contract in free agency and moving up eight spots in the draft to take Claiborne sixth overall in 2012. Dallas needs help at safety as well after losing two more starters in free agency in Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.


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