Who is the best safety in Dallas Cowboys history? Depending on what Cowboys era you grew up in, that question might come in a variety of answers. Some might say Cornell Green (1962-1974) or the Hall of Famer Mel Renfro (1964-1977) who BOTH played cornerback and safety throughout their respective Cowboys careers. Others might say the unprecedented duo of Charlie Waters (1970-1981) and/or Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris (1970-1979) which together certainly formed the greatest safety TANDEM in Dallas Cowboys history.
Or if you agree with the list the DallasCowboys.com staff writers recently put together, you might say Darren Woodson (1992-2004). This is where I will cast my vote as well. And it’s hard to argue with a five-time Pro Bowler (three-time Super Bowl winner as well) who just so happens to be the franchise’s all-time leader in combined tackles (1,350 stops). The 2003 season was his last on the field, and the safety position has been in a state of constant flux ever since.
Now you might be reading this, thinking that I am about to suggest our ‘Boys select University of Texas star safety Kenny Vaccaro with our 18th overall pick later this month. Unfortunaltely you would be wrong in that assumption. As I have previously stated, there is a very solid group of safeties coming out of this year’s draft class, enough so to still find a quality safety that can come in and compete right away for one of the two starting spots.
I understand many fans are intrigued by the local product Vaccaro, as he is the consensus top pick at safety in this year’s draft. And in being the consensus top safety pick, there is no doubt Vaccaro will be selected in the first round (perhaps even by a division rival). However I remain extremely firm on my stance of selecting an offensive lineman with our coveted first round pick.
If it’s me next to Jerry in the Cowboys war room come the end of this month, I’m going with a first round guard/center combo, a second round defensive tackle (though I thought long and hard going offensive line AGAIN in the second) and finally a safety in the third round.
WHY? Two Words: Quality Depth.
You have to understand folks; our Dallas Cowboys have only six current picks in this month’s draft. Six picks and we have to hit on every single one of them if we are going to greatly improve our team going forward into the next few seasons (you can now thank BOTH the 2008 and 2009 draft classes for this sense of urgency). And with the “quality depth” of the three biggest need areas on our team (offensive line, defensive line and safety) in this year’s draft class, we must find three future starters with our first three picks. Unless it’s our first round offensive lineman (where he will undoubtedly be called upon to start immediately) they may not have to start this year, but they must be able to compete for a starting job as soon as 2014.
Now back to safety. In his limited action last season (two and a half games) Barry Church impressed the coaches enough to a sign four year contract extension keeping him in a Dallas uniform for the foreseeable future (a bold but SMART decision). Church is a very instinctive player that is always around the ball. He does not have great acceleration but he makes up for it with his football I.Q. Depending on his health situation heading into 2013 (currently recovering from a season ending Achilles injury) Church WILL BE one of your starting safeties this season. The coaches are extremely high on the 2010 undrafted Toledo product entering his 4th season.
Last year’s 4th round safety, Matt Johnson, has yet to prove he can put two healthy hamstrings on the field. His rookie year turned out to be a “red shirt year” with the nagging hamstring injuries ending his season prematurely without adding any game experience. However, like Church, the coaches are high on Johnson and believe he is capable of competing with recently signed veteran safety Will Allen and a high draft pick for the other starting spot next to Church (if Church is healthy enough). And the other 2010 undrafted safety, Danny McCray – you can expect to see him thrive on special teams again and also resort back to his 2nd string safety duties. His coverage proved to be a liability as the season wore on last season.
And as for that draft pick that will be competing with Will Allen and Matt Johnson come training camp, I believe you will see him drafted in the third round. And I would expect a “ballhawk” with that 3rd round pick. When you hear the word “ballhawk,” most times you think of turnovers. And if a “ballhawk” is synonymous with turnovers, then you technically can’t label Kenny Vaccaro a ballhawk for he only registered five interceptions through three seasons while with the Longhorns. Regardless, Vaccaro will be drafted on day one.