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Jourdan Lewis has regained form at a critical time for the Cowboys

Jourdan Lewis’ 2023 season, in many ways, had been a season to forget for the 28-year-old veteran. After suffering a potentially career-ending foot injury roughly 15 months ago, 2023 marked a year of recovery, rehab, and grueling training for the Cowboys nickel CB.

Up until the injury, Lewis had been an ironman of sorts. He played 15 or more games in each of the five seasons prior and wasn’t familiar with the rigors of overcoming serious injury. Listed as a Lisfranc but described as something far more catastrophic, Lewis had to start at square one. It wasn’t just physically taxing but it was mentally difficult as well.

“There was doubt at the beginning that he would ever play again,” Britt Brown, Dallas longtime athletic trainer said of Lewis. “This was not a normal foot injury. This was like a car crash, where you crush your foot and it’s never the same.”

Lewis didn’t just need to get his foot back in football shape, but he essentially needed to learn to walk again with his surgically repaired foot. The laborious process understandably trickled into the new season, landing Lewis on the Cowboys PUP (physically unable to perform) list heading into training camp and buying the veteran time in his bid for a fantastic comeback.

At a cost of $6,137,244 against the cap, Lewis was Dallas’ tenth-largest cap cost in 2023. That’s a lot of money dedicated to a player who registered no higher than CB4 on the depth chart. But the Cowboys believed in Lewis. They saw how injuries in the secondary can sink an otherwise stellar defense and valued his ability to add depth across the ranks.

As fate would have it, a season-ending ACL injury to Trevon Diggs bumped DaRon Bland up to a boundary role opposite Stephon Gilmore, and vacated the nickel spot for Lewis to reclaim. As one could expect, Lewis did not exactly hit the ground running in his historic comeback bid. 2023 graded as his second-worst season as a pro as he struggled to regain form.

“I wouldn’t say I’m back to 100, but I understand how to manage my foot and what helps me perform better,” Lewis said in a January 5 interview with Nick Eatman. “Just getting my rehab in and keeping my diet and making sure I can perform at my best. I’m just in a better routine than I was earlier in the season. Just in a better place right now. I’m glad I’m able to get out there and contribute to the team.”

Announced as the Cowboys 2023 winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, Lewis is starting to see all of that hard work pay off. His Week 17 performance against the Lions and Week 18 performance against the Commanders marked his best games of the season. He showed intelligence in coverage, savvy in his playmaking and grit in his run defense. He’s playing at peak levels and he’s doing it with preparedness, discipline and toughness.

Playing in the slot is an almost impossible task in the NFL. Without the benefit of the sideline, nickel CBs are susceptible to a 180-degree release. Separation is almost unavoidable and oftentimes nickel CB is about keeping windows as narrow as possible and limiting damage more than it is about denying passes.

Lewis has shown throughout the season, nothing will come easy against him and while passes may be completed, he’s going to contest everything possible. His toughness and demeaner has been instrumental in the Cowboys ability to hold up against the run and his character embodies the spirit of a championship level defense.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire