I'm pretty sure choosing a third-round draft pick as your pet cat somehow breaks Bill Parcells' rules about pet cats. Regardless, many members of the Cowboys faithful have gravitated towards J.J. Wilcox at safety. There's something about his physical play and all the raves he's been getting in training camp that make a fan hopeful. Could the Cowboys have finally struck gold in the draft with a safety? It's too early to answer that question, we haven't even seen him line up against any opposing NFL competition yet. That process should start this Sunday.
Wilcox was no sure-thing in the draft, even the Cowboys had big-time doubts before they drafted him. Coach Jason Garrett explains:
“We drafted a guy in the third round who was a running back all until last year in college,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That was a huge discussion we had before we drafted him – can he really do this, can he really make this transition?”
Taking a guy in the third round who hasn't even played the position he was drafted at until his senior year of college is a huge gamble. It takes a special athlete to make that pay off, but also an athlete who is really willing to work on his craft and has some good natural instincts. So far, Wilcox sounds like that kind of guy.
“At all turns, he seems to be a really aware football player,” Garrett said. “He’s learninig [sic]. He’s got physical traits both to defend the run and play the back end. He’s the kind of guy you like to coach because he loves football and plays hard.”
Here's Wilcox on making the change in college.
“Looking at it from a defensive perspective, that was the biggest adjustment for me,” he said. “I had to stay extra. Film room, I was in there before the coaches and after the coaches, just trying to catch up, being a senior defensive back, trying to get drafted and noticed by NFL scouts. So I had to put in a lot of extra work. And my teammates and coach back in college did a great job with that.”
Come Sunday and all through the preseason, one guy I'll be watching closely is Wilcox. He got some first-team reps at safety when Barry Church was temporarily sidelined from a close encounter with a Jolly Rancher. He's battling Matt Johnson for the primary backup role. Could he make the leap all the way to starter before too long? That may be a little much to ask, but so far, he seems to top expectations at every turn.