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Roster Rundown: Cowboys Counting On Church’s Return
(Editor's Note: Throughout the offseason, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing each player’s impact last season and how he fits into the team's 2013 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features safety Barry Church.)
Name: Barry Church
Experience: 3 seasons
Key stat: In less than two games, Church didn’t accumulate many stats, garnering just eight tackles, including five solo stops.
Contract Status: Signed through 2016.
How He Played In 2012: In my view there were three players that really caught my eye, post-draft in the OTAs and minicamps, who I thought had a chance to have outstanding seasons in 2012: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Barry Church. They physically looked like different players and they were playing the game must faster than what I had seen the previous season.
I have to give Church a lot of credit for stepping up and taking the starting job away from those that were
in competition with him, but I also have to give secondary coaches Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker that same credit for getting him ready to play. There was never a question about the toughness of Church, but there were concerns about his ability to play in coverage. His size is ideal but was his quickness or speed?
There were times early in camp where you saw him matched up with Jason Witten and he was in good position throughout the route and you knew he had a chance. During the preseason games and the practices with the Chargers, it became even clearer that he could handle the job. His awareness and understanding of the scheme really showed, and it was rare that you saw him out of position or not around the ball.
On opening night against the Giants he had a big fumble recovery, but in Week 3 against the Buccaneers he suffered a freak injury to his Achilles and was done for the year. I know that the injuries to DeMarco Murray and Sean Lee were devastating during the season, but I would argue the loss of Church caused just as many problems because the position became unsettled. There were clearly times when the Cowboys missed his physical presence, matching up against some of the tight ends they were having to deal with in Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. It was a tough break not only for Church, but the defense as well.
How He Fits: There is no doubt that Church will have a long road back from this Achilles injury, but the fact that it happened so early in the season will give him the best chance to rehab it to get himself ready for training camp and beyond. His fit in this new scheme will be that of what John Lynch was but only with better cover skills.
Head coach Jason Garrett spoke about this during his press conference on Wednesday. He talked about how in this scheme you do see some two deep safety play, but you also see some single high, which means Church can play down in the box and offer help there. Even in the two deep look, Church can handle those inside routes, but when Sean Lee drops out of the middle, it will allow Church to cheat to the outside to help the corners, which he showed the ability to handle some last Fall. I really believed that he was on his way to being a special player before the injury, so hopefully he can get himself back into his 2012 form.
Nick Eatman: I thought the Cowboys did a nice thing by signing Church to an extension even though he was in the middle of a difficult injury. It wasn’t a lot of money, so if he comes back 100 percent and plays like they think he will, then it’ll be a bargain for the team. I think seeing LaRon Landry in the Pro Bowl was an encouraging sign for Church. Landry is coming off two torn Achilles and made it back to the Pro Bowl this past year with the Jets. I’ve liked Church from his rookie season, and thought the Cowboys should just let him play and start and see how it goes.