Prior to the draft, the Dallas Cowboys faced a bit of a hole in their Safety position having released veteran Gerald Sensabaugh, while the team’s only other veteran safety, Barry Church, rehabbed a torn Achilles tendon. The team’s answer was to sign veteran backup Safety Will Allen as a stop-gap. Many said the safety position could be the Cowboys undoing this season given the lack of veteran experience and depth, but not to worry as the 2013 NFL Draft held a number of top ranked safeties including Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse, Eric Reid from LSU, Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International, Matt Elam from Florida, and the consensus number one ranked safety in the draft Kenny Vaccaro from the University of Texas. With the amount of talent in the draft, experts thought there should be no problem finding a safety.
The Cowboys, however, waited until the third round, 80th overall, to draft their safety in the form an interesting prospect that did not quite carry the résumé of his peers, and was a converted wide receiver turned safety in just his senior year at Georgia Southern University. J.J. Wilcox was born and raised in Georgia and played college football for the I-AA Georgia Southern Eagles football team. Wilcox ranked second overall for the team in total tackles (5) and passes defended (1) against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, but the stats are deceiving.
Late in the third quarter, the Cowboys were fostering a narrow 10 -0 lead over the Eagles. Philadelphia was driving the field when Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson broke free to the back of the end zone and Eagles Quarterback Nick Foles lobbed a beautifully thrown pass almost into the outstretched arms of Jackson. But, at the last second J.J. Wilcox ran across and batted the ball away with one hand in an amazing display of concentration and dexterity. Had the pass completed, the result of the play was a sure touchdown for Jackson and would have brought the Eagles to within a field goal of tying the Cowboys.
In another series late in the third quarter, J.J. again made an outstanding play when he grabbed a deflected ball off Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant which was ruled on the field by the referees as an interception. The play was reviewed and overturned even though it looked as though there was not 100% conclusive evidence that the ball touched the ground. James “J.J.” Wilcox Jr. showed Sunday why the Dallas Cowboys have such faith in him to start. He is tied for fourth this season overall with a combined 25 tackles/assists, and while it is still early in his career, he is proving the Cowboys player personnel executives correct in drafting a talent of his caliber in the third round.
Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter: @MattsCowboys
Follow Matt Thornton on FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/mattscowboys