Stephen Jones Talks Lee's Spot, Starting Safeties, More


IRVING, Texas – It doesn't sound as if there's a scenario where Sean Lee will be moving to outside linebacker this year.

There are some talented inside linebacker's in the upcoming draft, including Alabama's C.J. Mosely, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 FM "The Fan" at this point moving Lee doesn't seem like an option.

"We've discussed a lot of things, that's not one of them," Jones said. "To be candid with you, I don't think we're really leaning that way."

The thought is that if Lee was on the outside, it may eliminate some of the collisions from being in the middle in the action. When Lee's on the field, he's one of the best inside linebackers in the game.

But Lee's dealt with a horde of injuries, and he hasn't played a full 16 games yet in his career. Last year, it was a neck injury that forced him out early. It was surgery on his toe the year prior. He's played in 17 games the last two seasons. He still finished as the team's leader in interceptions and the second-leading tackler in 2013, despite missing five games.

The Cowboys believe it's mostly a string of bad luck, and they have no immediate plans on moving him from middle linebacker.

"It's one of those things where we think we've had some tough luck with Sean, and I think he'll overcome that," Jones said. "He's so good in the middle there leading the way, leading the defense. It's a natural spot for him to work from. Hopefully, we can keep him there and have the complementary guys around him. Hopefully, if he stays healthy, I know it'll be a Pro Bowl, if not an All-Pro, type year."

J.J.'s Job?

One of the best competitions at camp will be for the starting safety job opposite Barry Church, and 2013 third-round pick J.J. Wilcox will be one of the leading competitors.

Jones said he thinks Wilcox can rise to the top when camp comes around this year, the same way he did last year.

"My thoughts are that he's really got a chance, if he goes back to playing like he had been in training camp and how he was playing toward the end of the year, to really be the guy opposite (Church)," Jones said.

Wilcox started five games opposite Church after the Cowboys released veteran Will Allen. Jeff Heath, however, started the final nine games at safety.

"Now that's not to discount what Heath did, I think he did a really nice job there and really filled in well for us," Jones said. "I think he'd make a great third safety for us. Obviously, does a great job for Rich Bisaccia there as well."

Wilcox finished with 44 tackles and a huge pass deflection in the end zone against the Eagles, but a knee injury and the passing of his mother provided serious hurdles in 2013 for the young safety.

"J.J. Wilcox had an outstanding training camp," Jones said. "The day his mother passed, he was actually promoted to be the starter. Everybody deals with adversity in different ways, especially a heartfelt loss like losing your mother. No one knows how anyone's going to respond to that, and obviously he was very close to his mother who had been sick, and had taken wonderful care of her and was obviously just a terrible, gut-wrenching loss for him. I just think it took him a while to respond. But toward the end of the year, we were starting to see flashes of the J.J. that we saw in camp." [embedded_ad]

Jones mentioned how Jakar Hamilton and Matt Johnson will also compete for that spot. Johnson was a fourth-round pick in 2012, but injuries have prohibited from playing the last two years.

"I know everybody kind of smirks, but one day if Matt Johnson stays healthy, then we'll finally get to look at him," Jones said. "Hopefully, that'll turn for him. Hopefully Matt's going to prove you guys wrong and a lot of people wrong and stay healthy and be the guy we thought we drafted out of there two years ago."

Getting Closer

Jones said everyone's getting a little antsy with the NFL Draft fast approaching, but it doesn't hurt having extra time at the beginning of May for more preparation.

"Where it really pays off a little bit is our coaches get to eyeball a little bit more of it, because obviously they're limited during the season and can't do these kinds of things," Jones said.

When draft day actually rolls around, Jones said his specific job is mostly sorting through the differing opinions that occur in the war room while trying to look at the big picture. As the draft unfolds, he said he looks at trade options and serves as a sounding board for owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

"As I've said many times, more times than not, and actually the majority of the time, there's a pretty good consensus for what's unfolding," Stephen Jones said. "But at times, there are some differing opinions and you have to sort through that and you have to make the tough call."

He added that the draft makes for both a fun and stressful day.

"It's why you're in the business," Jones said. "If you love football, who's not going to enjoy picking your players and putting your team together? But at the same time, obviously it's big business and a lot at stake and it's nerve-racking and tense. When you're done with it, you had a great time but you're also kind of glad to get it behind you."

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