*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 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features safety Barry Church.*
Experience: 5 seasons
Key stat:The Cowboys gave Church a contract extension in 2012, despite the fact that he had just torn his Achilles. He's rewarded them for the decision, playing in all 34 games in the past two seasons and leading the team in tackles both years.
Contract Status:Signed through 2017.
2014 Impact: It would have been difficult for Church to play as well as he did in 2013, which I thought was a Pro Bowl type of season. Where he is at his absolute best is when he can play down in the box and use his instincts near the line of scrimmage. When it comes to fitting in the run game, he looks very comfortable -- it is when you put him in the backend where he tends to have the majority of his issues. The deeper he has to play it takes those instincts out of place. He is a much quicker player reacting when he is down in the box and he can see it. Some of his best work is when he can cover tight ends, because it physically allows him to get his hands on the man and he is strong enough to maintain position. His size really helps him here. What Church doesn't have is the speed to really make a difference the deeper he plays -- which is why I believe that we saw more single high safety from Rod Marinelli with J.J. Wilcox playing that role. Has never had great recovery speed, so when he gets in trouble you notice it more. There were times where he was deep and receivers went by him before he was able to turn and go. His best trait is his ability to tackle. He's the type of player that once he gets to the ball, he is going to make a physical play. He's really strong in this area of his game. I felt like that he caused more turnovers in 2013 with his hits but is still a force to deal with on the ball.
Where He Fits: Church is a throwback player to the days of Darren Woodson where he starts on the defense but also contributes on special teams. As long as he is able to play down in the box and near the line, that is his best spot. He is always going to be a strong player at the point of attack and playing in limited coverage. You can see that he has taken more of a leadership role with the team and that his teammates look to him to be that type of player. There were times during the season where he got banged up during the game and it caused him some problems, but he was able to fight through and continue to play. He played in all 16 games last season and was solid in the way he played. Might not be the most athletic safety in the league but as far as the physical side of the game he gives you everything he has. He should once again be the starter when the 2015 season opens.
David Helman:Maybe more so than any other player we've reviewed, I think Bryan's analysis very clearly assesses what you're getting in Barry Church. In the two years the Cowboys have run 4-3, there aren't many defenders who have played at a consistently strong level – guys who you feel comfortable with as starters going forward. Church is one of those few. Is he the Ed Reed, ballhawk type safety that fans have clamored for all these years? No. But he's one of the better box safeties in the league and his assistance against the run is fantastic. He's not a great asset in pass coverage – DeSean Jackson's long touchdown in Washington D.C. continually springs to mind. That's honestly not a problem for me, though. Every defense needs a physical presence who can move down and help clean up the second level. Church doesn't need to be great in coverage. The one problem is that this puts pressure on J.J. Wilcox – or whoever is playing the opposite safety spot – to pick up that slack. If Church is one of your two safeties, then the other guy needs to be reliable. Wilcox hasn't enjoyed that type of consistency yet, but I personally think the safeties' arrows are trending upward.