*Editor's Note: With the draft now behind us, the Cowboys seemingly have a full roster for the offseason and training camp. There will likely be changes here and there but this group will mostly be intact when the real competition begins. So over the next two weeks, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will break down some of the pressing position battles to keep an eye on. Today, we continue with the safety position.) *
What's the Issue:
While the Cowboys have yet to change his position on the team's official roster, Byron Jones seems like he has fully moved from cornerback to safety. If that happens as both Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have indicated, it means he will most likely become the starter at free safety, alongside Barry Church. J.J. Wilcox has started the last two years but has struggled to make plays, against both the run and pass.
Jones played both corner and safety last year as a rookie but looked more comfortable at safety, especially matched up against tight ends. Jones finished fifth on the team with 76 tackles and led the entire defense with 12 pass deflections.
Jones and Church could be a rather formidable duo at safety, but it's rather thin behind them, even if Wilcox is on the roster. The Cowboys also have Heath and rookies Kavon Frazier and Rolan Milligan, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from Toledo, just like Church was back in 2010.
Don't Forget About:
Nick Eatman: The writing might be on the wall for Wilcox, especially if he's not head and shoulders above Heath at the safety position. Heath already has a major edge on him on special teams, considered by the coaches as one of their best players in the kicking game. Heath was also signed to a four-year extension and Wilcox is in the final year of his deal. So the notion that Wilcox will just be replaced by Jones but get moved down to the third safety, seems unlikely. And if he's not one of the top three, Wilcox might have some trouble making the final roster.
Rob Phillips: Keep an eye on Kavon Frazier as a rookie who can make the team as a reserve safety. He was a sixth-round pick who had a fourth-round grade on the Cowboys' draft board. In his scouting combine profile, NFL.com compared Frazier's skill set to Barry Church. Indeed, Frazier is a strong tackler who's probably best suited near the line of scrimmage. He produced 108 tackles as a senior, and while the Cowboys' starting safeties in 2016 are most likely Church and Byron Jones, Frazier could add some depth. He'd likely need to be a core special-teamer for Rich Bisaccia.
David Helman: I'm going to use this space to write about something we already know – but we choose to forget. However much we might choose to speculate about the safety positon, I think people tend to lose sight of what the Cowboys have in Barry Church. No, he is not Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. He's not great in coverage, and he's not a ballhawk. He's not among the league's elite safeties. All of that said, he is a fantastic box safety and a strong leader for the Dallas defense. He's excellent in run support and he has success when his duties bring him up near the line of scrimmage. He's also a defensive captain and the positive kind of locker room personality that Jason Garrett loves to rave about. His deficiencies in coverage have been exposed in recent seasons, but I have a hunch that pairing him with an athlete like Byron Jones might help mask those problems. I don't know if he's going to get another contract in Dallas, but I expect Church to have a very productive 2016 partnering with Jones in the Dallas secondary.