IRVING, Texas – There are more undrafted captains for the Cowboys for the 2014 season than drafted ones.
Tony Romo and Jason Witten have been mainstays as the two offensive captains and remain that way, and Dan Bailey is once again the special teams captain. The two captains representing the defense this year are Barry Church and Justin Durant.
With DeMarcus Ware gone and Sean Lee injured for the 2014 season, Church and Durant are the newcomers to the group of five captains. In Church, Romo and Bailey, three of the Cowboys' five captains were undrafted players.
Head coach Jason Garrett said Church, who was named the team's 2013 Defensive MVP at the annual kickoff luncheon, has shown what he's all about. This is just another example of him taking advantage of an opportunity.
"An undrafted free agent that's come in here and told us he needs to make this football team and shows us every day he deserves to be a part of that," Garrett said. "Everything we've asked him to do since he's been here, he's always overproduced."
Church led the Cowboys with 133 tackles last season in his first year back from a torn Achilles. [embedded_ad]
"There were questions about whether or not he could play on defense, is he only a special teams guy, is he only a down low player, can he play on the back end, and every turn he's stepped up and done some really good things for us," Garrett said. "Again, was the MVP of our defense last year and continued to get better and better and has got some natural leadership qualities to him. Guys gravitate towards him, just the way he goes about his business, how he plays, and it's a well-deserved honor for him."
As for Durant, he's been the most consistent linebacker at training camp in a year some considered him a bubble player to start out with. That's certainly no longer the case. Garrett said Durant's stepped up after the Cowboys lost Lee, and that's what they needed.
"Justin's really taken the bull by the horns and shown us that he needs to be the leader of that defense," Garrett said. "He's very comfortable making calls, making adjustments and maybe more than anything else, he does it with his play every day in practice. In the preseason games, he brings it and again, guys gravitate towards that and really respect that."
Durant admittedly isn't the most vocal player on the team, but that's not why he won the award. It's because of how he performed on the field every day.
He said he's humbled and honored that his teammates chose him to be one of the leaders.
"I think they saw how dedicated I was coming in, how hard I worked, the plays that I was making during camp and just overall what they think I brought to the team," Durant said. "I think that I'm just a person who, not really much of a talker, but just try to go out there and lead by example. The guys, they definitely have respected that."
Durant will likely be the linebacker to relay the calls and make the defensive adjustments this season from the weak side linebacker spot. That's a role typically reserved for the middle linebacker, but they trust Durant with it.
That ability to do whatever is asked of him, even make the calls, is just part of his versatility. Durant's capable of playing any of the three linebacker spots, starting camp in the middle and now moving over to the weak side. He also played on the strong side last season.
"Versatility certainly makes you valuable," Garrett said. "He's had an ability to play each of those spots on that defense - the Mike, the Will and the Sam. You need your linebackers to be able to do that… He's proven that he can be really effective at all three spots."