IRVING, Texas -Barry Church was one of the bright spots of training camp and preseason. The third-year pro continued to make a name for himself as a run stopper at the safety position and he was named a starting safety for the Cowboys before the season opener in New York.
For those reasons, it was supposed to be a huge blow to the team when Church was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles against Tampa Bay. The Cowboys are 1-2 since Church and with offensive line issues and turnover ratio dominating most Cowboy conversations, little attention has been paid to Church's backup, Danny McCray.
Church and McCray came to the Cowboys together three years ago as undrafted free agents and they have both stuck around and earned valuable spots on the team. While McCray was promoted to starting safety after Church's injury, he was already considered the Cowboys' best special teams player and a captain on the team.
When McCray was inserted into the starting defense the general consensus was that he would serve as an adequate replacement, but that there would still be something missing in the absence of Church. This has actually not been the case. Both players have started three games for the Cowboys this season and McCray has actually outperformed Church in his starts.
In Church's three starts (two wins) he recorded three, one, and two tackles respectively.
In McCray's three starts (one win) he recorded six, seven and four tackles respectively.
It is true that McCray has the advantage of playing special teams and therefore gets more opportunities at recording tackles. However, there is another statistic that works in McCray's favor as well and it has to do with opponents' rushing numbers, which is known to be the strength of Church's game.
In the first three games (which Church started) the Cowboys gave up a combined 339 yards on the ground to their three opponents.
In the next three games (McCray starts) the Cowboys only gave up 291. This is all the more impressive considering that McCray started against opponents that featured Matt Forte, Ray Rice and Cam Newton and the Panthers' rushing attack.
Perhaps circumstances have a great deal to do with the statistics, but no matter how you look at it, McCray is filling in nicely for the injured Church and has shown the potential to be a long time starter in the NFL.