ARLINGTON, Texas –The Cowboys will go back to the drawing board at a position where their search of consistency is seemingly unending.
Third-year former undrafted safety Barry Church had been something of a revelation at the position, dating back to the beginning of training camp, when he beat out veteran Brodney Pool for a starting job, but he suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury in the third quarter on Sunday. He is expected to have surgery on Tuesday.
"It's either torn or partially torn, one of the two. I'll find out tomorrow," Church said. "There's no way, probably (to return this season). I'll be watching."
With the Cowboys' other opening day starter Gerald Sensabaugh sidelined this week by a calf injury, the Cowboys finished with Danny McCray and Mana Silva as their safeties in the base defense for the second straight week. Church had left the Week 2 loss in Seattle early after suffering a quad bruise. McCray made the first start of his career on Sunday, in place of Sensabaugh, who said he believes he can return in time for the Cowboys' next game, a Monday night home matchup against Chicago.
"I'll be ready to go," Sensabaugh said. "But at the same time, we've got guys that can play. We'll be all right. They all can play. We have a lot of guys that can play out there. It's unfortunate for Barry. He'll rehab and get everything right and be ready to come strong whenever his time comes up again. Crazy injury."
Coincidentally, it was the Cowboys' depth at another position in the secondary that helped them get through Sunday's game with little incident despite the thinning of the safety position. The team has four cornerbacks it trusts, and chose to slide one of them, Brandon Carr, back to safety in the nickel package. Mike Jenkins moved into his spot on the outside.
It's unknown if the team will utilize the same package moving forward to deal with the injury, or if another safety will be added to the roster. Other than Sensabaugh, McCray and Silva, the Cowboys have no experience at the position. Fourth-round pick Matt Johnson has barely practiced since the draft and has recently been sidelined by a hamstring injury.
"We're going to have to look," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said of the immediate future of the safety position. "We have to do what's best for the team. We'll look and get the best thing we think we can do."