I think I'm the only person following this Cowboys team with any faith in Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox to man the all-important safety position this season – or in subsequent seasons.
That's the only conclusion I can come to as I hear the continued suggestions that Byron Jones needs to work primarily at safety as he advances in his rookie season. Every step of the way, from the pre-draft process to the onset of training camp, there's been a steady call for an upgrade at the position – and some steady disagreement from me.
It's true that it hasn't exactly been a position of strength in recent years. Church has been an exemplary box safety, with 232 tackles in the last two seasons, but he hasn't shown a strong penchant for takeaways. Wilcox nabbed three picks and recovered two fumbles in 2014, but his understanding of angles and pursuit need improvement – as anyone who watched the season-ending loss to Green Bay can attest.
That said, I've seen enough to feel optimistic about their prospects going forward. I've certainly seen enough that I don't need to the No. 27 overall pick to deal with a position switch.
Jones played safety for the first two years of his college career, but he built the bulk of his NFL resume playing corner. He notched more interceptions and more pass breakups in his two years at corner than his two years at safety. On top of that, I think his build suits him better to play corner, as opposed to the incredibly physical nature of Church and Wilcox's styles.
Most importantly is the standing situation at both positions. For all their faults, we've seen Church and Wilcox man the helm on a playoff run. Factor in Wilcox's continued development at a position he's played for just three years, and I think the Cowboys have enough.
Cornerback is still a position that makes me nervous, even with all the work this team has done to fix it. They added Jones and Corey White in the past two months, and they secured Orlando Scandrick's services for the foreseeable future. With June 1 having come and gone with no news, it also looks like Brandon Carr is on board for 2015.
I still think Jones has a great chance to upgrade that spot one way or another – whether it's outside or in the slot. Carr came on strong to end the 2014 campaign, but he's had his struggles the past two years, and White is no guarantee to make the team. Morris Claiborne appears to be rehabbing well from his patellar tendon injury, but it'd be a mistake to count on him right away.
That gives Jones a chance to earn a job as one of the top three corners right away – and in the modern NFL, it's a given that your top three corners can expect to play a lot of snaps. Whether as a nickelback or an outside corner, Jones has the athleticism and the ball skills to make an immediate difference.
I feel like a broken record, but I simply don't feel like it's time to worry about the safeties. Church and Wilcox aren't top-tier players, but they're certainly not holding this defense back. We can have this conversation again down the road, but for the time being I'd let my first-round pick make an impact at his primary position.