The rookie safety out of Georgia Southern made his first start, and saw his first significant action of his career, on Sunday. Prior to facing the St. Louis Rams, J.J. had only been on the field for a total of six snaps, all of which came on opening night against the New York Giants. Considering that he had not played the position until his senior season of college, the young man has come a long way in a very short period of time; so far that the Cowboys felt it was time to see what they have in Wilcox.
We respect the job Will Allen has done. Will’s been a great help to the young guys. But we wanted to get J.J. out there, because he does have a lot of ability. If you don’t play those young guys, you’ll never know. Don’t put them out there in the 10th game of the year. Find out if they can play."- Monte Kiffin
Wilcox had a solid first start, accounting for three tackles during the game. He was swarming to the ball throughout and even picked off a Sam Bradford pass in the third quarter. Unfortunately, the interception was taken away due to a roughing the passer call against teammate Jason Hatcher. In spite of the disappointment of having his first interception taken away, J.J.'s debut was one that would have brought a smile to his mother's face. After all, her memory is the source of his motivation.
"Sad, still hurts me to this day, but I’m going to stay strong. I know what she would want. I’m going to stay strong for my dad and my sister back home. It helps push me and motivates me."-J.J. Wilcox
For Wilcox, there will be other days, other interceptions to celebrate. The team sees him as a long term solution at a position where the team has struggled in recent seasons. Jerry Jones has been referring to the tandem of J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church as being a "group that he likes." Head coach Jason Garrett likes what Wilcox has shown as well.
He was a small-school guy, didn’t have a lot of experience playing the position in college, but since playing here he’s demonstrated the ability to pick things up quickly. He’s an instinctive player. He has a good feel for the game and a good feel for being around the football and making plays."- Jason Garrett
In addition to earning the respect of the Dallas brain-trust, Wilcox is also making a solid impression on his teammates. Sean Lee in particular has been vocal in his praise of the rookie safety.
"He’s a good player. He’s been showing it all camp that he’s got ability to find the football. He can hit. He knows how to play the game. It’s just getting him some experience, which I think him out there will only help him."- Sean Lee
For Cowboys fans this past Sunday marked the beginning of a new era in the Dallas secondary. An era that will hopefully bring an end to the bad safety play that has plagued the team since Darren Woodson left the game. While it is still a bit too early to assume that all of the issues are behind us, there is a legitimate reason to be hopeful. J.J. Wilcox appears to be what we had anticipated from Matt Johnson. If so, the future is looking bright.