Dallas Cowboys: How 7th-Round Pick Ahmad Dixon Fits on Defense

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Dallas Cowboys: How 7th-Round Pick Ahmad Dixon Fits on Defense
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Going into the 2014 NFL draft, Ahmad Dixon had a draft grade as high as the third round. With that in mind, many fans saw Dixon as one of the biggest steals in the seventh round. 

The Dallas Cowboys have been looking for a playmaking safety since Darren Woodson retired. Even though Dixon is only a seventh-round pick, there is hope that Dixon can bring a hard-hitting and playmaking style to the secondary. 

At the moment, Barry Church is the incumbent starter at the strong-safety spot. He led the Cowboys in tackles last season, and there is no reason to believe he will not remain the starter at strong safety. 

With the free safety position up for grabs. J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson and Jakar Hamilton will likely battle it out to be the starter. 

Traditionally, the strong safety is usually stronger and a better tackler who is best in run support, while the free safety should be quicker and better in coverage. 

Now let's look at Dixon's stats, measurables and film to find out where he fits at the safety position.

 

Stats

Ahmad Dixon's College Statistics
Year Tackles Tackles for Loss Interceptions Passes Defended
2010 16 0 0 0
2011 89 5.5 1 4
2012 102 5.5 2 5
2013 81 2 1 6

Sports-Reference.com

Dixon's stats point to him being more of a true strong safety rather than a true free safety. Since his freshman year in 2010, Dixon had more than 80 tackles each of the next three years, while not making a lot of interceptions or passes defended.

Stats are not the tell-all when it comes to coverage, but they point to the fact that Dixon seems like more of a box safety. 

 

Measurements

Ahmad Dixon's Measurments
Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size
6'0" 212 pounds 32.25" 9.875"

NFL.com

Dixon has enough size to play either safety position. His arms are relatively long for his size, and his height-to-weight ratio doesn't raise any red flags. 

 

Combine Results

Ahmad Dixon's NFL Combine Results
40-Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 20-Yard Shuttle 3-Cone Drill
4.64 seconds 14 32" 9' 3" 4.50 seconds 7.55 seconds

NFL.com

Once again, Dixon's combine results point to him being a strong safety. He proved he was not exceptionally quick, fast or explosive. You would like a free safety to be a little bit more athletic than Dixon is because they have to cover a lot more space quickly. 

If Dixon was relied on to cover a lot of space, he may not have the physical capabilities to do it.

However, Dixon could still be a free safety if he shows great awareness, excellent use of angles and great instincts. To see if Dixon has those attributes, let's look at his game tape.

 

Film

Games Reviewed: TCU (2013), Texas Tech (2013), Iowa State (2013), Kansas State (2013)

Dixon loves to go for the knockout blow. This leads to good things and bad things.  

The good is that Dixon can make a game-changing or tone-setting hit. 

Credit: Draft Breakdown

On the play above, it is 3rd-and-3. Dixon is lined up at least 10 yards off the line of scrimmage; as soon as he realizes that it is a quarterback run, he comes downhill fast. Dixon meets the quarterback at the line of scrimmage and makes a huge hit for no gain. These are the types of plays that Dixon makes. 

However, this also leads to Dixon missing a great deal of tackles. For a guy who has made a ton of tackles, he misses more than his fair share. 

Credit: Draft Breakdown

Here is an example of Dixon having poor discipline and technique when attempting to make a tackle. Dixon does not break down and get square to the runner. Instead, he overpursues and uses sloppy footwork that allows the runner to get inside of him. Dixon makes a poor attempt at a tackle that the runner easily shrugs off. 

This is a problem that shows up all the time on his tape. For every big play or hit Dixon makes, there are two where he shows poor tackling ability. 

Oftentimes, Dixon doesn't wrap up well because he is looking for the big hit. He comes in with his shoulder instead of breaking down to make the solid fundamental tackle. Dixon will have to learn to be more disciplined with his pursuit and tackling technique if he wants to see any playing time in the NFL.

Another troubling aspect of Dixon's game is that he is very poor in coverage. Again he plays with poor technique and discipline. 

Credit: Draft Breakdown

Here, you see him bite hard on the tight end's outside step, which leaves Dixon in terrible position. The quarterback makes an easy throw to the tight end for an easy touchdown.

Most of Dixon's problems come from a lack of discipline. Whether he is overpursuing the run, biting hard on double moves or getting dumb penalties, Dixon has to be more disciplined. If not, Dixon will not be a Cowboy for long.

  

Fit on Cowboys Defense

Based on the film, Dixon isn't ready to see the field at either strong or free safety. If he played free safety, his lack of coverage skills would get exposed, and at strong, his poor tackling would be revealed. 

The best thing for Dixon right now would be to become a special teams star, while working on his footwork, discipline and tackling technique. 

For the next couple of years, Dixon should be able to move into Danny McCray's old position of special teams ace and reserve safety, which isn't bad for a seventh-round pick.  

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