One of the more exciting and most anticipated camp battles will be the safety position. The release of Gerald Sensabaugh combined with an injury to Barry Church has opened up a full blown battle for both spots. Now this isnt a post to bash Church, far from it. But to open up the thought of letting the unknowns go to work, Matt Johnson and JJ Wilcox.
On the surface some may be brought back by the thought of letting an injury laden red shirt rookie and a inexperienced true rookie start on the back end. But you shouldnt be. In essence we are going into the season with fairly in experienced Safeties, outside of Allen, anyway. Therefore the best fit and player should win out.
The premise of the Tampa 2 is to allow your playmakers to make plays and create turnovers. The safeties job in particular is to be able to cover half of the field. Now dont get me wrong I am a huge Barry Church fan and thought he fit his role well in Ryans defense, and from Kiffins view sees him as a key guy in their system. Personally I dont see Church as a turnover type guy but a solid guy which again isnt bad. But I think alot may change when they see a healthy Matt Johnson and JJ Wilcox on the field together.
MATT "The Myth" JOHNSON : It sucked last season not being able to see Matt on the field due to his injuries. But for arguments sake we will assume hes ready to go, and according to Broaddus over at the mothership he's ready to go.
Athleticism: At 6'ft 211 lbs his pro day included a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10'1" broad jump. He also showed excellent athleticism with a 4.07 short shuttle and a 6.84 3-cone drills.
When you see things like this when analyzing Johnson it also makes you eager to see him on the field in this system;
Plays with a linebacker mentality and toughness. Takes sharp angles to the play and stays smart. Strong football intangibles with leadership qualities and top work ethic. Good straight-line speed and plays decisive. Opportunistic with good ball skills, doing a nice job tracking and attacking. Arrives to the ball carrier with bad intentions and looks to separate ball from player.
His ball skills showed up alot in school tallying 17 interceptions. That kind of nose for the ball would be a welcoming sight to the defense. And if you seen his film you definitely come away with a certain word that comes to mind, physical. In the Tampa 2 coming up on run support from either safety position is key. But having a nose for the ball is also an added trait in this defense, being able to do both would be a gift we haven't had in a long time in Dallas.
JJ WILCOX: He may be my favorite pick in this years draft. Small school guy with big time game. Dont think for a second Wilcox isnt here to compete for a starting position as so many people initially claimed him a "special teams guy" his first year. I dont believe that at all.
Jason Garrett: "If you watch him play, he leaps off the screen at you. He’s physical, he can run, he loves to hit. He just plays with great explosiveness. What we were impressed by, for a guy that hasn’t done this since high school, he really seemed to pick up the position well and adapt well.
You could see him grow through the course of the year. We liked his athletic ability, we liked his potential, but we also liked the demeanor with which he played. He’s a hard-playing guy, he’s a physical guy, and it’s what you want from your safety."
Athleticism: At 6' ft 213lbs His combine results were a 4.51 40 yard dash, 17 reps on the bench, 35' vert, 4.09 shuttle ,7.02 cone.
While his combine results were impressive in their own rights his true athletic ability doesn't show there but in his unique transition to defense. His first 3 seasons at Georgia Southern he was on offense as a WR/RB/KR where he accumulated 17 touchdowns.As a Senior playing safety Wilcox amassed 88 tackles and 2 ints. His play stuck out so much he received an invite to the Sr. Bowl in Mobile Alabama.
J.J. Wilcox of Georgia Southern was the best safety for the South team during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, according to Phil Savage, the all-star game's executive director.
"The NFL scouts were very anxious to see J.J. practice and perform in Mobile after making the move from wingback to safety for the Eagles in the past year," Savage wrote. "He is a well put-together athlete with some rawness to his game. However, he may have the highest ceiling of all the South safety prospects."
Wilcox also is another addition to the RKG team. He seems just as eager to come in and grab this starting spot as much as we are as fans to see someone finally step up and make a difference.
"I always wanted to play safety," Wilcox said. "Some of my favorite players were at the safety position. I grew up watching the Cowboys and they had Darren [Woodson], and it’s just a blessing to actually put that star on the side of my helmet." Asked if he can realistically contend for a starting spot Wilcox said "No doubt about it"
Hes here to take one of the starting spots folks. And I believe its in our best interest he and Matt Johnson take over and become the new but stable forces on the back end. If Johnson doesnt win a position this year in a wide open battle he'll be a wasted 4th round pick, we cant afford another wasted mid round pick.
Some may say "whoa 2 inexperienced guys starting?". Had this been Rob Ryans complex defense that often confused our own players, Im not so sure Id be willing to do this. But in Kiffins Tampa 2 its alot more simple and relies on the talent of the individual more than tricks. Its pretty much a half and half assignment and go make a play.
If its one thing we have been lacking on the backend its play making ability. A healthy defense could present alot of opportunities with these 2 in the back end and guys like Ware, Rat, Spencer, Lee, Carter, Mo and Carr in front of them.
With guys like that already on the team its not as if they will be asking these guys to be Ed Reed and Darren Woodson. The athleticism of Wilcox and Johnson offer an interesting duo that could eventually stabilize what has been an inept position and provide more turnovers than we've seen in a long time. We can only hope our prayers are answered.