Safety First, Unless You're the Dallas Cowboys

You trust J.J. Wilcox?

Me neither, but apparently the Cowboys do.

Most disappointing aspect of the NFL Draft was Dallas’ failure to upgrade one of its weakest positions in recent seasons: Safety. We’ve all grown weary of the Cowboys’ allowing record points and yards on defense, partially due to overwhelmed safeties such as Alan Ball and Abe Elam and Will Allen and Gerald Sensabaugh and Jeff Heath.

Maybe Zack Martin will develop into a perennial Pro Bowl player at right tackle, but for those of us desperate for defensive help it was excruciating for the Cowboys not to trade down in the first round and select either Louisville’s Calvin Pryor or Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. In the 7th round they finally drafted Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon, who played safety in Waco but is projected merely as a special-teams player as a rookie.

In other words, the draft and free agency (so far) has come and gone without a significant addition to the back end of the worst defense in franchise history.

Where does that leave us? With Barry Church starting at strong safety. Okay. And Wilcox, Heath and the oft-injured Matt Johnson competing for the starting job at free safety. Yikes indeed.

Of the three, Wilcox - last year's 3rd-round draft pick - has the most potential and apparently it’s job to lose as we head into next week’s OTAs and into training camp.

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“Wilcox is in the driver’s seat,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson told reporters at last week’s rookie minicamp at Valley Ranch. “He has the first opportunity to solidify the job, and we are hopeful that he does. But we know behind him we have some hungry guys.”

Hungry? Maybe. Capable? Hmm.

Wilcox was good enough early last season to allow the Cowboys to release Allen. But he was eventually beat out by Heath, who was posterized countless times but receivers and tight ends plowing over him toward the end zone. And Johnson is the former 4th-round draft pick who has still yet to play a single snap because of hamstring and back injuries.

The Cowboys think they have improved their pass rush with multiple additions along the defensive line. Considering the lack of talent at safety, it’d better be extremely improved.

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.

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