Can George Iloka Win A Starting Job?

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(Editor’s Note: Now that offseason practices are in full swing, let’s get to know 30 Cowboys players who are new to the current 90-man roster. Today we’re featuring safety George Iloka.)

How He Got Here: Iloka was the second of three big veteran acquisitions this offseason, just after Randall Cobb and just before Robert Quinn. He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, but he has started 79 games, compiling 362 tackles with nine interceptions over the course of a six-year career. Iloka signed a one-year deal, adding a veteran presence to an otherwise young safety group – and potentially challenging for a starting job. The opportunity to play football in his home state, just a few hours away from his home town of Sugar Land, Texas, probably didn’t hurt either.

Bet You Didn’t Know: As if we needed another reminder of Kellen Moore’s youth, Iloka was a college teammate of the Cowboys’ new offensive coordinator. Iloka and Moore both arrived at Boise State in 2008, taking part in an amazing four-year run that saw the Broncos go 50-3, winning three conference championships and a Fiesta Bowl.

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Quotable: “
*My goal from Day 1 is just to have the best year of my career. If I go ahead and have that, the rest will take care of itself and speak for itself.” – George Iloka

Bryan Broaddus’ Take: Veteran safety that stared his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was with the Minnesota Vikings last year making three starts, as he was part of a rotating system with Mike Zimmer. He sees the field really well and makes the correct adjustments as a player. There is some football intelligence to his game. He has a feel for how to blitz. Doesn’t do anything to tip it off. He is a wrap-up tackler when he gets in position. The first thing you notice is his impressive size, but he lacks foot quickness. It’s clear when he has to play in coverage that this is a struggle for him. Moving forward is not a problem but anything over his head is a different story. His contract is structured in a way to allow them to move on from it in case he’s beaten out for a roster spot.

Role/Roster Chances: Over the course of offseason practices, Iloka mentioned to reporters that he’s excited by the opportunity to play down in the box, filling more of a strong safety role than he has in years past. If that’s the case, it’s obvious his main competition for snaps will be against incumbent starter Jeff Heath. The Cowboys have utilized Heath as their strong safety for two years, but it seems obvious – both from the decision to sign Iloka and their interest in safeties during this year’s draft – that they wouldn’t mind upgrading the position. Dating back to his years in Cincinnati, Iloka is capable of compiling 80-tackle seasons, with multiple interceptions thrown in for good measure. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him win a starting job. On the flip side of that, this doesn’t look like a slam dunk by any means. Iloka’s deal isn’t worth a significant amount of money, and if he doesn’t prove himself more valuable than the young guys on the roster, it’s possible he could be a roster cut casualty come September.

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