Has defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson found a reason to smile?
As has been the case for several seasons, one major off season conundrum for the Dallas Cowboys has revolved around the safety position. Now, just over a week into training camp, the team seems to have found not one; but several workable answers to what has been the never ending question. Based on the news that is coming out of Oxnard, I have started to feel rather confident that the "centerfielders" in the Cowboys defense are more than capable of rising to the challenge in 2013. Having recently completed my preview of the rest of the NFC East, I might even go so far as to state that the Dallas safeties might be the class of the division. Okay, that might be pushing things a little far considering we have yet to see the actual product under game conditions; but I am much more confident than I was a couple weeks ago. Let's take a look at why.
One year ago things really started coming together for the undrafted free agent out of Toledo. Church emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, and allowed the Cowboys to part ways with veteran Brodney Pool, whom they had signed early on the free agency period last year. Blogging The Boys writer Archie Barberio gave us an in depth look at how Barry had stepped up his game over the 2012 off season. Unfortunately, the rise of the former Rocket was short lived; Barry Church was lost for the season when he suffered an Achilles injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although expectations were high coming in to camp, there was speculation that Church might not be able to come all the way back to the form he displayed prior to the injury. Defensive secondary coach Jerome Henderson assured us back in May that prospects for Barry's return were promising. He told Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News that Church "looked like the same guy" that he was prior to tearing his Achilles. Certainly, the Twitter feed from camp lends credence to Henderson's words.
Barry Church comes up with a diving pick, got up and scored. Orton's low throw in the flat went off Tanner's hands.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 22, 2013
The Dez Bryant show also called training camp just took a break thanks to a huge hit by Barry church ... Nice hit— Nick Eatman (@nickeatman) July 24, 2013
Based off of what he saw early in OTAs; Brandon Carr let fans know exactly what he thinks of last years "wasted" fourth round draft pick.
Brandon Carr: After watching Matt Johnson practice, 'I can kind of see what all the hype was about' http://t.co/9EpcehZV6S— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 25, 2013
Frequently hyped, but rarely ever seen; "redshirt rookie" Matt Johnson arrived in Oxnard ready to play some football in 2013. The young ballhawking safety out of Eastern Washington entered camp last season amid great expectations; but, as you know, issue after issue conspired to beep him off of the field. OCC gave us an early look at Matt last year, but now Johnson is ready to do his own talking in the only place where it really matters: on the gridiron. Early news from camp has indicated that Dallas may have gotten exactly what they expected when they selected Matt last year. Over at that other site, Rafael Vela commented on the steady emergence of Johnson, stating that he has given the Cowboys some options in the deep middle. Matt is finally showing BTB readers what we have been anticipating ever since our resident scout Birddog26 started hyping the fourth round selection after the 2012 draft. Even ESPNDallas has recognized his efforts. His effort on Friday resulted in his having the play of the day.
J J Wilcox
The rookie safety out of Georgia Southern might only have one year of experience at safety, but he isn't letting that hold him back. Rabblerousr clued Blogging The Boys in about this young playmaker prior to the draft. In fact, he went so far as to say that there would be a happy dance performed at Chez Rabble if Dallas were to select Wilcox. Rab did let us know that he thought, as did I, that JJ would need a season or two to acclimate himself to the defensive side of the ball and the games highest level. Mr. Wilcox seems to have missed that part of the article. He has come to play. The Twitter feed has been showing the Cairo, Georgia product some love as of late.
This JJ Wilcox kid, y'all. 1v1: Andre Smith takes an 8yard out route. Wilcox drapes around his outside shoulder and just swats the ball down— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 26, 2013
Jason Garrett compared Sean lee and rookie jj Wilcox to bill bates. They tackle to much in practice. Which is good and bad. Don't slow down— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) July 24, 2013
On a sad note; I do have to inform the community about a piece of unfortunate news. Unlike former Cowboy Emmitt Smith, Rabblerousr will not be seen on Dancing With The Stars. Sorry Rab, it's just not in the cards for you.
Like Brodney Pool was last season, Will Allen came to camp as some solid veteran insurance to hedge against the young guys not living up to what Dallas had expected. Unlike Pool, Will Allen is going to make the Cowboys roster. Our esteemed leader, Dave Halprin, gave Cowboys fans the first look at Allen after he was signed. Allen, with 10 years of NFL service, might be in the twilight of his career; but he does bring experience in the Kiffin defense. He also proved that he still has some tread left on the tires with his play in Pittsburgh last season. He did a solid job in replacing the injured Troy Polamalu. Allen has spoken openly about wanting to bring Steeler-style mean to the Dallas secondary. Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk tells us more. Judging from all the talk about the hitting that has gone on since the pads came out, Will Allen has helped to do just that. Like fellow safety Matt Johnson, Allen's on the field performance has also delivered a play of the day honor from ESPN Dallas. Will's efforts have also garnered the respect of long time Cowboys broadcaster Brad Sham.
I think I'm becoming a Will Allen fan #pickinpractice— Brad Sham (@Boys_Vox) July 23, 2013
So far; so good. The reports flying out of Oxnard give us a reason to be optimistic, perhaps elated, about the Cowboys safeties for 2013. The proof; however, is in the pudding. The only place the safety question will be answered is on the field. Only time will tell, but for now the winds of change are blowing through camp and there are four ballhawks fighting to make their mark on the league. For a team that has been bereft of interceptions for the past couple of seasons, this is a sign that bodes well for the upcoming campaign.
I, for one, an excited for what this group can become. In my opinion the answer for the deep middle has been found, but now it is your turn to tell me what you think. Let's hear what you think, BTB.