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Question & Answer: Church, Wilcox Are Solid But Can Safety Be Improved?

IRVING, Texas – For quite a while now, it's been a yearly source of consternation for the Cowboys and their fans: the lack of a top-notch, dependable safety in the Dallas secondary.

Playmakers have come and gone at nearly every spot on the Cowboys defense, but not so much for the safety spot. It's been seven years since a Dallas safety earned a spot in the Pro Bowl – all the way back to the duo of Roy Williams and Ken Hamlin in 2007.

It's been more than a decade since Williams earned the Cowboys' last All-Pro designation at the position. And of course, the shadow of Cowboys great Darren Woodson looms large over the position since he retired in 2004.

There have been flashes of potential at the position in the past two years, but it hasn't stopped some from calling for a new influx of talent. With three weeks left until the draft, here's a look at what the Cowboys currently have on the roster.

Barry Church

What We Know: Church has been in the conversation to earn that elusive Pro Bowl bid, at the very least. He's proven himself as a quality box safety, with 222 total tackles in his two seasons as a starter. He's a valuable asset against the run and a quality locker room guy.


Still Need To Know If: He can bring anything more to the back end of the defense. Church is definitely a guy you want coming toward the line to make a tackle. He's not exactly a liability in coverage, but he isn't spectacular, either.

J.J. Wilcox

What We Know:Wilcox absolutely has the demeanor you want from your all-star safety. He made headlines last summer when he scuffled with Dez Bryant, and he has shown a willingness to fly around and put a helmet on anyone, anywhere.


Still Need To Know If:He can actually harness his talent and his tenacity into top-tier safety play. Wilcox was decent in his second season, but he showed lapses in tackling and in coverage. He had five takeaways last fall, which is a good start, but you'd also like to see more game-changing plays. Last season was just his third playing the position, so it's fair to say his arrow is pointing up. But the Cowboys will want to see his potential produce results.

Jeff Heath

What We Know:The coaching staff loves him, primarily because of his ability to shine on multiple special teams units. Heath was one of the standout players in kick and punt coverage, and he added another 27 tackles as a reserve – though the safety position as a whole was much more stable than in his rookie campaign.


Still Need To Know If: We don't know how much more Heath has to offer as an actual safety, rather than just a special teamer. He caught unfair flak as a rookie for struggling when he was thrust into the spotlight, but it's still doubtful the Cowboys would want him to provide anything more than occasional depth.

Keelan Johnson

What We Know: We know Johnson spent the 2014 season out of football after Philadelphia released him in August. He played two games for the Eagles as a rookie in 2014 and made one tackle. Other than that, there's not much to know aside from the fact that the Cowboys signed him in January, roughly a week after the end of their season.


Still Need To Know If: Is he anything more than a camp body? The timing of the Cowboys' signing him could indicate that they think something of him, but he's far down on the depth chart and there's a good chance he'll be competing with some rookies – be they draft picks or undrafted free agents.


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