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Thanks to J.J. Wilcox, Downtrodden Cowboys' Defense at Least Has a Pulse

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Dallas Morning News/Michael Ainsworth
    Receiver Dez Bryant (88), right, and safety J.J. Wilcox (27) are separated by teammates after a scuffle that resulted after Bryant was hit hard by Wilcox during the blue-white scrimmage at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, CA, on Aug 3, 2014.

    Back in 1993 at training camp in Austin, safety James Washington took it upon himself to inject some excitement into another hot, ho-hum practice.

    “Offense getting a little cocky over there,” Washington told reporters as the Cowboys’ offense huddled. “’Bout to remind them we can play over here too.”

    And on the next play – which was a run – Washington flew toward receiver Michael Irvin and flattened him after the whistle with a diving forearm between the 8s. A fight ensued. The message was sent. The Cowboys’ defense finished ranked No. 1 in the NFL and, of course, Irvin survived the skirmish to help lead Dallas to its second consecutive Super Bowl.

    I’m not about to say that J.J. Wilcox is Washington or even that Bryant is Irvin. But I did love what I saw on the field during Sunday’s scrimmage in Oxnard.

    Bryant caught a pass over the middle, got de-cleated by Wilcox, and came up swinging. The Cowboys don’t have the talent, but they do have a pulse.

    “I wanted him,” Bryant told reporters after the scrimmage. “He pissed me off. But you know, man, it was in the heat of the moment. When things got calmed down, I told him I loved it. Keep it coming.”

    Like Irvin, Bryant constantly barks at the defense, attempting to illicit a response from a unit that was embarrassingly futile last season. Didn’t think Wilcox had that kind of fire in his belly, but I was impressed. Bryant needs to be popped in the mouth every once in a while, and the second-year safety took a huge step forward toward being a leader on the defense.

    “It’s just a chip on our shoulder,” Wilcox said afterward. “We’ve been ranked No. 32 last year. It’s time to step up.”

    If the Cowboys are to finally top 8-8, they’ve got to get better safety play. And if Sunday’s scuffle was any indication, Wilcox just might have the stomach for the fight after all.

    A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.