(Editor's Note: This is the fourth of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2014 season. Today we examine the safeties.)
Pressing Matters: The carousel ride that was the spot next to
2013 Evaluation: Barry Church was the team’s most consistent tackler, particularly after
Need More From … : This could be up for interpretation, but they definitely need more from Johnson, a 2012 fourth-round pick who’s never played because of injuries. Every time anyone saw him make a step and look like he could be a solid contributor, an injury would set him back and eventually end his season. The unfulfilled expectations could still be met if he can stay healthy through an offseason and preseason, and the fact he’s still around demonstrates what the coaches think of his ability. The Cowboys also need more from Wilcox, who’s got the physical attributes to become a starter and may just need more experience to harness the talent.
Upgrades Needed: The Cowboys may decide to draft another safety with range that’ll allow Church to play closer to the box more often. This group was overmatched at times, mostly because of the inexperience throughout. After Allen was released, the safety contributors consisted mainly of Church, Wilcox and Heath. Church was the veteran of that group and he had only started three games the season prior before an injury. Mistakes are sure to follow in such a scenario. The Cowboys’ coaches will have to be as honest as possible about the potential of their young group, and if they feel it’s too much of a risk to slot Wilcox, Heath or Johnson in as a solid starter next year, they’ll need to make an offseason move to put another player next to Church or to add depth and insurance.
By The Numbers:
- Church and Heath both recorded their first career interceptions.
- Sean Lee’s injury meant another player would lead the team in tackles, and Church answered that call in 2013. Different outlets provide different tackle totals for the safety, but all of them credit Church with at least 133 tackles – some as high as 147 – and leading the team.
- Wilcox, Heath and
Jakar Hamilton, all rookies, ended up taking snaps at safety.
- Church led the team with three forced fumbles. It also marked the first time he played in all 16 games in a season.
Bryan Broaddus on the Cowboys’ safeties:
What I have learned over the years studying this scheme is that if you have poor safety play, it affects how well the defense functions. The idea is to funnel the ball to the inside and allow the linebackers and safeties to make the plays. But if those players are out of position… (Read more here)