OXNARD, Calif. - Barry Church is one step closer to earning a starting safety spot following the release of veteran safety Brodney Pool on Monday.
Coach Jason Garrett was asked if the decision to cut Pool was more about his play or the development of Church.
"Probably a combination," Garrett said. "We want to make sure we give those guys a lot of opportunities. We didn't feel like (Pool) was a good fit in camp right now. The younger guys have stepped up in their roles. We like the competition we have there."
Church, who's been taking first team reps at safety opposite Gerald Sensabaugh, said cutting Pool sent a message that anybody can go at any minute.
"As a defense, we've got to move on with the players that we do have here," Church said. "We're going to gel. The sky's the limit."
Church is in his third year on the Cowboys, serving initially as a special teams player. He began to see more time in the defensive rotation last season, especially in nickel and dime packages.
The safety from Toledo has made the most of his chances during training camp. He said he feels like the coaches have his back this year and know his potential.
"I feel a little bit more confident in my game, a little bit more confident in the system," Church said. "Last year, we didn't have OTAs or anything like that, so we weren't able to cover the defense beforehand. This year, I feel a little bit more confident. The coaches, I feel like, feel more confident in me as well."
That confidence should be evident by the release of Pool, who played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland and his brother, Rex Ryan, with the Jets.
Rob Ryan said losing Pool felt like letting a friend go, but that's part of playing professional football. He said cutting Pool early in camp gives him a better opportunity to sign with another team.
"That always sends a message," Ryan said. "But I think the message has been clear from day one. We're going to play good defense. We're going to keep the best players."
And for now, it certainly appears as if Church is in that group.