Byron Jones' versatility will be tested by the Cowboys in 2018

After two seasons of playing safety, Byron Jones is switching back to cornerback for the Cowboys. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

FRISCO, Texas -- A year ago, Byron Jones fielded fly balls during batting practice for the Double-A Frisco Roughriders. He plays basketball in one of the elite adult leagues in the Dallas area, winning a championship a year ago.

On Monday, Jones picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time in his life. After some coaching from some players from the Dallas Rattlers, who will call Ford Center home as they open their season in Major League Lacrosse, Jones was able to fire home some shots into an empty net, win a faceoff and even catch a long pass.

"It's tougher than it looks, I'll tell you that much," Jones said.

Jones can do a little bit of everything on the football field, too, as he’s shown during his first three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

As a rookie, he played mostly cornerback, either outside or in the slot, but moved to safety late in the season. In 2016 and '17, he started every game at safety as the Cowboys thought that would be his best spot.

On Monday, Jones introduced himself to the gathering at the press event with the Rattlers as a cornerback, confirming the position switch that was speculated upon earlier in the offseason.

"I think it will be a good move for me and the team," Jones said. "It's something that as soon as (passing game coordinator Kris Richard) came in, that's what he was talking about. He wanted to move me to corner. We had a discussion and we made the move."

When the Cowboys chose Jones with the 27th overall pick in the 2015 draft, it was as a cornerback with safety skills. The thought was to play him at cornerback for the first few years of his career, knowing he could play safety down the road.

In 2016, Jones moved to safety full time and was paired with Barry Church and finished with 102 tackles according to the coaches and an interception. In 2017, he started every game and finished with 74 tackles and an interception but he moved into a rotation with Kavon Frazier as the season wore on.

With Richard coming over from the Seattle Seahawks, where he preferred bigger corners, like Richard Sherman, the Cowboys are hoping the finally cash in on Jones' gifts.

"I'm a longer corner," said the 6-foot Jones. "I've got speed, good athleticism. I think you can use that on the outside."

A year ago the Cowboys drafted cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. They became starters late last season but Jones could vie for one of the outside spots with Lewis moving into the slot.

Then again, Jones' versatility to cover bigger tight ends and shifty wide receivers in the slot could see him play inside, while also playing a hybrid role in a dime package.

That the Cowboys have not yet solidified Jones' best spot after three seasons is concerning. They have yet to pick up the fifth-year option for 2019 on Jones' rookie contract but the expectation is they will. Jones said Monday that he has not had any discussions with the team about the option.

But Jones' situation raises a question: Can versatility be a bad thing?

"I guess it certainly can if you never give them a chance to settle in at a spot, but versatility and position flex I think in general is pretty good," coach Jason Garrett said. "We are mindful of that. You want to make sure you give the guy a chance day after day after day to understand what the demands of a particular position are, but once you get going, you have to do what's best for your football team. And if a guy gives you the best chance because he's playing this spot instead of this spot because we get someone else a chance to play there and that makes the unit better or the team better, then you have to do those things."

With the move back to safety, Jones' offseason training has changed some. He no longer has to gain weight for the rigors of playing safety. He is working on more, what he calls "explosive," movements to deal with the starts and stops required at cornerback.

Monday was the first official day he could sit down with Richard about the particulars of the scheme and what he wants from him at cornerback. While Sherman has been one of the best corners in the NFL, Richard does not want Jones focusing on the Pro Bowler.

"You never want to look at different corners and try to emulate that person," Jones said. "Everyone's different. You can't copy what someone else does and try to make it work for you. You've got to find what works for yourself. That's important for a guy out there by himself as a corner. Just find your own technique."

Jones has been frustrated by the lack of big plays -- just two interceptions -- in his first three seasons. Perhaps with the move to cornerback they will come in 2018.

"I'm always open to making position changes," Jones said. "As long as I'm in the best position to succeed and if (Richard) believes that the best position is corner, then I'm down."