IRVING, Texas – Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox is arguably coming off the best game of his young career last week in Philadelphia. But it's unlikely he'll be able to follow head coach Jason Garrett's motto and "stack good games together" when the team travels to Detroit.
Wilcox will likely have to miss Sunday's matchup against the Lions after suffering a sprained right knee, which required an MRI Thursday afternoon. Wilcox said he had a sprained MCL, an injury he suffered on his left knee in college at Georgia Southern.
"It feel better this time than that injury," Wilcox said. "I'm disappointed, but that's football. That's the way it goes."
Wilcox suffered the injury late in Thursday's practice during red-zone drills when he came down awkwardly after competing for a pass with tight end Gavin Escobar.
Wilcox agreed he likely wouldn't be able to play this week against the Lions and said it's too early to tell if the Nov. 2 game with Minnesota is a possibility. But the rookie definitely perked up when asked about a possible return for the Saints game on Nov. 10.
"I don't know just yet, but I don't think it'll be that bad," Wilcox said. "I just have to work hard to get back soon." [embedded_ad]
A third-round pick in the 2013 draft, Wilcox has been improving each week, and made a key play in last Sunday's game against the Eagles when he deflected away what appeared to be a touchdown pass to Philly wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Wilcox also had an interception that was called back when replay officials said the ball first hit the ground, ruling an incomplete pass.
"I really felt like I was coming on," Wilcox said. "I've always had a lot [of confidence] but I know I've gotten better and felt like I was starting to really help the team. So hopefully this won't be a big setback."
If Wilcox doesn't play, the Cowboys will likely start rookie Jeff Heath, who is battling an injury of his own. Heath sustained a right forearm injury last week, but said the issue won't keep him out of practice or the game.
"I might wear something on it but it won't be anything major," Heath said of possible brace. "It'll be more like a tight wrap."
The Cowboys also have Danny McCray, who is one of the team's better special teams contributors, but if Wilcox can't go, it's likely the club would need to add a fourth safety – possibly rookie Jakar Hamilton, who is currently on the practice squad. To sign Hamilton, the Cowboys would have to release another player.
Wilcox is currently seventh on the team with 28 tackles. He took over as a starter in Week 3 against the Rams and started five straight games, making a career-high nine tackles against Denver.
He won the starting job outright from Will Allen, who was eventually waived. Wilcox had a stellar training camp and preseason despite having to miss nearly a week in the middle of camp to be with his ailing mother, who passed away in August.
Wilcox still returned to play in the last two preseason games and got a few snaps in the first two regular-season games before the coaching staff made him a starter. Wilcox has had two interceptions nullified this year – one by penalty against the Rams and the other by the replay booth last week.
Wilcox could be yet another defensive starter that doesn't play because of injury. DeMarcus Ware missed last week's game and could miss another with a quad strain that the Cowboys are worried could develop into a tear if he's rushed back on the field. Defensive end Anthony Spencer is already lost for the season with a knee injury that required microfracture surgery.