IRVING, Texas – He might be focusing on the Eagles, but J.J. Wilcox is going to carry a reminder from Week 1 for quite a while.
The headline-grabbing hit that he put on Odell Beckham Jr. didn't just make the young wide receiver woozy, it gave Wilcox a battle scar on his nose that required stitches – eight to be exact.
"I think eight – it was a big gash," Wilcox said, with a fresh bandage applied to the bridge of his nose.
The heavy impact set quite the tone for the Cowboys defense, which limited Eli Manning to just 197 passing yards. Beckham returned to the game after the hit, but he was limited to just 44 receiving yards. He also didn't find the end zone, after scoring four times against the Cowboys in two games as a rookie.
"He has a natural knack for impacting the game, whether it's a play on the ball or a big hit," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Wilcox. "You saw both of those the other night against the Giants."
It was a strong start to the season for the third-year safety, who finished with three total tackles on the night. It'll be interesting to see if Wilcox can build on the performance, especially considering his successes in Philadelphia to this point in his career.
As a rookie in 2013, Wilcox had a game-changing breakup of a would-be touchdown pass from Nick Foles to DeSean Jackson. He also had an acrobatic interception called back by a replay review. Last year, in a crucial late-season meeting, he had four tackles – as well as an interception and a forced fumble in the second half that helped swing a 38-27 win in Dallas' favor.
"He's getting better and better and better, had a lot of hits on the ball, he was effective in the passing game, he's effective coming up and making some stops against the run," Garrett said.
As much as he might be improving, Wilcox said he's not satisfied. The goal sounds simple enough, but it's anything but that. Wilcox said the plan is to avoid the familiar labels that have plagued safety play in the league for years – and perhaps avoiding any more big shots to his nose.
"I think I'm definitely going toward where I want to go at – which is to be a complete safety for this organization," Wilcox said. "I don't want to be labeled as a box safety or a free safety. I want to be just an all-around safety, an all-around safety for this organization."