The NFL Draft is now less than a month away. And with some major losses suffered in the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys are under more pressure than ever to have a successful draft. Especially considering their lack of moves in free agency to address those losses. With anticipation building for Cowboys fans and nothing to do but wait, I thought this would be a perfect time to address Ten Burning Questions Surrounding the Dallas Cowboys as of right now.
10. Who Will Start At Safety Beside Barry Church?
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones appears to be happy with the current state of the team’s safeties. But by my account, fans are not. Besides safety Barry Church, the Cowboys only have a handful of inexperienced players to take the other starting safety role.
The leading candidate to start beside Church is J.J. Wilcox. The kid has potential and showed glimpses of greatness in the preseason last year. But inexperience, the death of his mother and injury (MCL sprain) really hurt J.J. in his rookie campaign. Let’s not forget that Wilcox was a third round pick out of Georgia Southern who had just one year of experience at safety. That’s a tough jump from the Sun Belt Conference to the NFL. But the Cowboys appear to be all-in on Wilcox right now.
Behind him are safeties Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson. Heath has a slight edge over Johnson simply because he’s seen a quite a bit of regular season action. Heath started in six games last season and had 60 total tackles. He also led the team in special teams tackles with 13. But Heath also got ran over by Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson for a score and was repeatedly abused by New Orleans Saints quarterback Dree Brees. Pro Football Focus ranked Heath as the 62nd best safety in the NFL last year. Wilcox was ranked 49th.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys fourth round pick out of Eastern Washington in 2012 has yet to even see the field in the regular season. Safety Matt Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason of his rookie campaign that ended his season before it started. Last year, he sprained his left foot in the very first preseason game and soon landed on the injured reserve list yet again. Johnson has been a Cowboy for two years and played in just two preseason games. But the Dallas front office and coaching staff must see something in him to keep Johnson around that long. Many believe this will be his final chance to prove he’s been worth the wait.
Finally, here’s a name not a lot of people are talking about: Jakar Hamilton. The undrafted rookie out of South Carolina State was called up from their practice squad after Wilcox suffered a knee injury mid-season. Although Hamilton looked lost at times, underground rumblings amongst fans had some excited by his potential. Clearly, he is raw. But honestly, so are the rest of the safeties other than Church.
It appears the Cowboys are hoping one or two of these “projects” will step up this year and validate the time and effort placed into them by this team.