The Dallas Cowboys could conceivably start three men with only college resumes in their defensive backfield. And they wouldn't be the first team to get away with it, either.
The 'Boys drafted cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado) in the second round and Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) in the third and safety Xavier Woods (Louisiana Tech) in the fifth.
While many might gasp at the suggestion of starting Lewis and Woods, Awuzie is much less of a surprise. Pro Football Focus already listed Awuzie as one of the Cowboys' probably starters at corner, pushing out free agent signee Nolan Carroll.
Lewis was a two-year starter at Michigan and a first-team All-America last fall. He set a school record for career passes broken up with 45 and left Michigan with six career interceptions. Like Awuzie, he is physical in coverage.
And how about Woods, the fifth-round draft pick? If he can play the strong side, there's certainly a possibility that he could beat out long-time special teamer Jeff Heath.
Per the Dallas News, "for a secondary in dire need of plays, the Cowboys may have found the right guy in Woods. He was a three-year starter and a two-time All-Conference USA selection at Louisiana Tech. He intercepted 14 career passes and forced six fumbles. When he's around, the ball is up for grabs."
But could all three of them start?
"It's conceivable," Cowboys defensive backfield coach Joe Baker told the News. "We drafted those guys because we feel they have starter ability. Are we going to get there at the start of the year? I don't know. But we feel they all have the ability to start. The best man will get the job. That always plays out on the grass."
The Dallas News compared the Cowboys' current situation to that of the Super Bowl-winning 1980 San Francisco 49ers, who started three rookies in their defensive backfield.
he 49ers selected cornerback Ronnie Lott in the first round in 1981, cornerback Eric Wright in the second and safety Carlton Williamson in the third. Lott was an All-America at Southern Cal and Wright an All-Big Eight selection at Missouri. All three reported to training at the top of the depth chart.
"It was a done deal that was what we were going to do when we drafted them," said George Seifert, the defensive backfield coach of the 1981 49ers. "We were going to start them."
The turnaround was dramatic. The 49ers vaulted all the way to sixth in the NFL in pass defense in 1981, allowing 13 fewer touchdown passes that season and 55 fewer yards per game. That rookie-laden coverage unit allowed the opposition to complete only 53.1 percent of its passes with 27 interceptions.
The 49ers never allowed more than 260 yards passing in a game all season on the way to a 13-3 record.
But here's the money quote: "We never thought of them as rookies, and they didn't think of themselves as rookies," Seifert told the news.
From everything we've been hearing from Cowboys minicamp, this vision isn't so farfetched.