It is taken on faith around these parts that the Dallas Cowboys will continue to be challenged at the safety position. Many of us were hoping that situation would be rectified with the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Dallas front office obviously had different ideas. According to Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, the team views J.J. Wilcox as the future at safety.
"He was really having a tremendous training camp and he had a real tragedy in his life when he lost his mother. We were naming him the starter that day, and then he had to leave camp, rightfully so, to be with his family. We think J.J., working with him in the offseason, has it all back together again and we think he’s going to seize the opportunity." - Stephen Jones
Currently Wilcox is being given that opportunity. He has been working alongside veteran Barry Church as the first team safeties during the first round of OTAs. That is a role that his teammates have spent the offseason helping the second year player from Georgia Southern prepare to embrace. Like the Dallas scouts and coaches, his fellow defenders see a future for Wilcox as the Cowboys starter.
"I think the game slowed down a little bit for me. My teammates are helping me progress. Sean Lee, Barry Church on the other side, they pushed me all offseason to get better and to understand the game. - J.J. Wilcox
They are now seeing the efforts that Wilcox put in during the offseason are starting to bear fruit. One of the guys who put in the extra efforts to help J.J. progress recently told the media that he is seeing the results that they are looking for.
Barry Church on J.J. Wilcox: "He's making leaps and bounds and I feel like he'll make a big leap in his second year."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 29, 2014
Still Wilcox knows he cannot take anything for granted. Not too long ago there were plenty of calls for Dallas to invest a high selection on a player to pair with Church, and if he does not continue to make progress those calls will be repeated during the next off-season. Nothing is guaranteed in the National Football League and he is continuing to put in the effort to perfect his craft.
"My name was up first. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to start. But it’s how I’m going to attack it. It’s how I’m going to prepare for it."
I still have to communicate and be a leader back there in the backfield. My cornerbacks and my other safety and my linebackers help me with it and understand that I’m going to be a leader. That’s a role I’m going to have to step in and be."
Taking a page from his head coach's book, J.J. WIlcox is working on getting better each day, stacking one good outing on top of another, and putting in the efforts that will set him apart from the competition. Combining his efforts with his natural athletic ability and passion for the game, Wilcox is starting to become the player that the Dallas Cowboys thought he would be when they invested a third-round draft pick on a small school safety who only had a single season of experience on defense. He intends to prove himself worthy of Dallas taking that risk.
"I just want to keep getting better and just keep working and help this team out and just improve and get some more wins."
J.J., that's what we all want from you as well.