*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features safety J.J. Wilcox*
Name: J.J. Wilcox
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 217
Experience: 1 season
College: Georgia Southern
Key stat:Wilcox came down with two interceptions during his time as the starter, though both were called back.
Contract Status:Signed through 2017
2013 Impact: I remember this time last year going through tape of potential draft picks and coming across J.J. Wilcox's tape from his time at Georgia Southern. What was clear from the very beginning of my study was that Wilcox was always around the ball and that he played with a nasty attitude.
There wasn't much in the way he played in coverage scheme-wise because the majority of his games, he was playing downhill. There were more times than not where you saw him just going to attack the ball. There were plays where he was a solid wrap-up tackler but others where he was more interested in just throwing his body around and not bringing his arms.
If you asked me other than his lack of experience, what did he carry over to his rookie season here in Dallas, it was that nose for the ball but also his struggles as a consistent tackler. Where Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker had to work hard with Wilcox was with the angles he took to the ball but also putting himself in position to make the tackle.
It's great to play with a physical nature, but it was also important to also play under control. Henderson and Baker also had to try and improve his awareness on routes because quite frankly, it was something that he really didn't see much in the Southern League. But we did see improvement in this area toward the middle of the season in a game in Philadelphia, where the ball went down the field to DeSean Jackson and he was able to make a play over the top, knocking the ball away.
It was the best example of Wilcox showing awareness but also seeing the development of the play, which was something that he struggled with earlier in the season.
Where He Fits: I really think Wilcox is better suited to line up as a strong safety than he is as a free. I thought he did a much better job when you could keep things in front of him and let him react that way.
I did mention the play in Philadelphia which was outstanding but because of his limited experience for the position, it will most likely be best to try and keep him near the line. It was clear the coaches were more interested in playing Jeff Heath at free safety than playing with Wilcox, even when he came back from his knee injury.
I like the fact that Wilcox was able to gain experience for the position last season, which should help him in 2014, but how he lines up during the OTAs and minicamps will tell you a lot about what they think of him as a front office and coaching staff but there is some positive traits to work with there. [embedded_ad]
David Helman: My main impression of Wilcox in 2013 was that he played like a rookie with limited experience at his position. He started in five games and played in 13, which seem like good numbers for a first-year player.
The main thing that stands out from those appearances, however, is how little it seemed like the coaching staff trusted him. Wilcox played the vast majority of his snaps well away from the line of scrimmage – even by a safety's standards.
The Eagles game in Philadelphia stands out as a bright spot for him, but his lack of experience and that positioning prevented him from making too many plays outside of that. As plenty of fans have pointed out, it serves as noteworthy commentary that Jeff Heath, an undrafted free agent, started more games than the third round pick.
All that said, it seems too early to close the book on a guy who showed flashes in just his second year at safety – his first as a pro.