Could This Rookie Safety Push For Snaps?

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(Editor’s Note: With training camp just around the corner, let’s get to know 30 Cowboys players – from rookies to established veterans – who are new to the current 90-man roster. Today we continue the series with safety Donovan Wilson.)

How He Got Here: Wilson, the Cowboys’ sixth-round pick, was a defensive captain and three-year starter at Texas A&M. He posted eight interceptions in four healthy seasons for the Aggies. After receiving a medical redshirt due to an ankle injury in 2017, Wilson ranked second on A&M's defense with 66 tackles last season and added a team-best two interceptions. The Cowboys have had recent luck with sixth-round safeties: Xavier Woods (2017) had a solid first year as a starter last year.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Wilson is now teammates with the guy he tried to stop in college and high school: quarterback Dak Prescott. In 2015, Wilson posted six tackles in an A&M victory over Prescott and Mississippi State. But as a high school freshman, Wilson’s team (Woodlawn High in Shreveport, Louisiana) got dominated by Prescott’s crosstown powerhouse, Haughton High, his freshman year. “He gave us problems,” Wilson said. “He was just so much bigger and faster than everybody. It was a challenge.”

Quotable: “He’s a really physical guy – that’s what leaps off the tape at you. We see him as a strong safety – a guy down around the line of scrimmage for us. He has the physical traits. He’s big. He’s fast. That physicalness was the trait that really jumped out to us, and he has a really good understanding of the game. His football intelligence is excellent; his aptitude to play is all really good. He has a good feel for playing. We think he can pick things up quickly and get in here and compete and make the safety position that much better.”- Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett

Bryan Broaddus’ Take: Wilson will have his hands full in order to make the squad. The one advantage that he does have is that front offices will try and protect their drafts and keep a player on the roster that might not be ready but they just don’t want to lose him to another team on the final cut down. The example of this is how they kept Rico Gathers even though he wasn’t ready to play. That’s a suitable decision only if your roster isn’t very deep and that’s not the case at all here. Wilson is in a battle with several veteran players including Kavon Frazier, George Iloka and Darian Thompson. Frazier is a big-time special teamer, while Iloka and Thompson have made starts in the league and have that experience. From my experience, rookies can have a bad day or two, but a week’s worth and a bad preseason game or two could land them off the roster. Wilson is super talented, so consistency will be the key for him.

Role/Roster Chances: Like Bryan said, there’s so much experience at safety and/or special teams ahead of Wilson at the moment. He’ll have to show enough potential at safety and the ability to step in right away and help this team on the coverage units. It’s clear why the Cowboys drafted him, though: For a strong safety prospect who tackled well in college, he also showed excellent speed and quickness in the offseason workouts.

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