THE SAFETY VALVE IS OPEN: Dallas Cowboys firmly support young J.J. Wilcox following the 2014 NFL Draft | Dallas Cowboys defense
IRVING, Texas – Perhaps rookie safety Ahmad Dixon will turn into something truly special, but the numbers speak for themselves.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dixon No. 248 overall, eight picks away from the end of the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday. The fact that they took him means they see something promising in his play, but his position on the draft board doesn’t inspire much in the way of expectations.
That’s by design, to hear it from Dallas Cowboys executives. The safety spot is a position some consider to be a dire need for Dallas, but it’s hardly evident based on the draft strategy. With the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had a shot at any of this year’s premier prospects – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor and Jimmie Ward – not to mention a slew of other safeties drafted behind them.
Despite that perception, though, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he was “pretty comfortable” with the outlook at safety going forward with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, and Matt Johnson.
“I think I was always pretty upfront about that. You can obviously upgrade it if you take them one – I’m not going to deny that. To some degree there was one in the second there we liked a lot, the Northern Illinois safety,” he said. “But after that, we kind of felt like we were getting a lot of what we had. We like J.J., we like Church and we like Heath. We’ll just see how these guys play out.”
That’s an attitude both Stephen Jones and Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones repeated several times throughout the weekend. Specifically, it seems the offseason optimism is for Wilcox to grab hold of the starting role he briefly held in 2013.
The Georgia Southern standout was taken No. 80 overall just last season and endured plenty of ups and downs — from losing his mother in training camp to being named the starter to a knee injury that forced him out of the lineup – during a rollercoaster rookie year.
“We thought we had really hit on a big one right up until he lost his mother – we were naming him the starter the day he left,” Stephen Jones said on Friday night. “Obviously, we couldn’t do that because he’d have to miss quite a bit of time.”
Dixon, Johnson and Heath should provide plenty of competition for Wilcox, not to mention fellow second-year safety Jakar Hamilton. The Cowboys also signed three undrafted safeties in free agency.
In the meantime before training camp, however, hopes remain high for Wilcox.
“We feel good about him – that’s saying a lot,” Jerry Jones said. “But, boy, he looks good out here and we have high expectations for him.”
BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: Texas-2 Safeties huge in overall success of this defense
Dallas Cowboys Safety Breakdown
This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!
Top Performer: Barry Church
There were plenty questions coming into the Dallas Cowboys 2013 season of how Barry Church would play coming off the Achilles injury that he suffered in Week 3 of 2012. At this point, Church and his injury appear to be holding up well.
What we fail to realize about Church is despite coming into his fourth season in the league, he had only made three starts at safety and all of those came last season. From what we’ve seen from Church through 10 games in 2013, there has been some hit-and-miss play – something you’d expect from a player who doesn’t have a great deal of experience.
Where Church has always been his best is as that physical player that is fearless when it comes to sticking his nose in there to make a tackle. But with this type of play comes those plays where he is too aggressive and finds himself in trouble when he takes a bad angle on his way to the ball like he did in the Lions game on the long pass to Calvin Johnson.
For Church, each snap has been a learning experience for him in his progression as an NFL safety. There are days where he has looked rough but compared to what has happened this season with the other safeties, he has managed to hold things together.
Need More From: J.J. Wilcox
It’s hard to say that you need more from a player who, at times for a rookie, has played very well, but that is the case of J.J. Wilcox. It has been three games since Wilcox suffered a knee sprain during practice getting ready for the Lions game.
In his absence, Jeff Heath has had to make those starts. Heath has had his share of struggles and the New Orleans game was by far his most disappointing showing, but this is not to say that Wilcox hasn’t had his share of missed tackles on third down as well.
Both of these rookies are trying their best and that is really the main problem — they are still only rookies. The word is that Wilcox should return after the bye in preparation for the Giants and that will allow Heath to go back to work in his role as a core special teamer.
Where this team needs more from Wilcox is in those plays like we saw from him in the Philadelphia game, where he showed range to knock the ball away from DeSean Jackson to save a touchdown, and being in position when the ball gets knocked in the air by Jason Avant for a potential interception.
Wilcox has proven in his young career that he has a knack for the big play around the ball, which is something that defense desperately needs.
Six-Game Forecast: Safeties huge in overall success of this defense
The play of the cornerbacks would be the key for this defense going forward. Let’s believe that will be the case, but how these safeties play in the remaining games will also tell a story.
As far as experience, it is a very young group with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, Danny McCray and Jakar Hamilton. For this club, Darren Woodson is not going to come walking through that door to save the day, so it will be up to this group to find the right combination and make plays when their number is called.
What we have learned about the safety play in this Monte Kiffin scheme is that the safeties are huge in the overall success of the defense. Whether it is Church playing as the eighth man in the box or Wilcox showing range deep, this group has to make plays. There are games ahead where the ball will once again be going down the field. Can these young safeties handle that?
There have been moments this season where they have been up to that challenge, but we’ve also seen some poor play as well, which has cost this defense far too often.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints | Dez Bryant back tightness
ARLINGTON, Texas – For a couple of reasons, the Dallas Cowboys moved practice indoors Wednesday to AT&T Stadium in preparations for Sunday’s game with the New Orleans Saints.
But a few key players were not included, highlighted by the absence of wide receiver Dez Bryant. Early reports indicate tightness in his back.
Other players not in attendance were Jason Hatcher (stinger), cornerback Morris Claiborne
(hamstring), wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and safety J.J. Wilcox (knee).
One player back to practice was DeMarcus Ware, who has missed the last three games with a quad strain. Ware could be limited when the team releases the official injury report later in he day.
One new face on the field was defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, who signed with the team today. Dawkins, who joined the team from Minnesota’s practice squad, is wearing No. 90.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team went inside to escape the rainy conditions and to crank up the noise inside to try simulating the expected noise at the Superdome in New Orleans.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings | DeMarco Murray back in lineup
ARLINGTON – DeMarco Murray will be active today against the Vikings after missing each of the Dallas Cowboys’ previous two games with a sprained knee.
DeMarcus Ware, on the other hand, highlights the inactives list, which also includes wide receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety J.J. Wilcox, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, tackle Darrion Weems and tight end Andre Smith.
Wilcox (knee), Holloman (neck) and Claiborne (hamstring) were all ruled out after Friday’s practice. Ware (thigh) and Austin (hamstring) were both listed as doubtful. Along with Murray, Ware’s also missed each of the last two weeks after getting injured against the Redskins, and he’ll now miss his third straight game.
Austin has been given rest and sat out last week after trying to give his sore hamstring a try against the Eagles on Oct. 20.
All the Cowboys players who were probable entering the weekend will be active, including Jason Hatcher (neck), George Selvie (shoulder) and Barry Church (hamstring).
Guard Brian Waters was also ruled out after Friday’s practice with a triceps injury, which has since moved him to injured reserve. Defensive back Micah Pellerin took Waters’ spot on the 53-man roster and will be active.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas guard David Arkin returns to the practice squad
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys made the decision to cut David Arkin on Saturday because they needed the roster spot. But they haven’t completely given up on their three-year investment.
The Cowboys decided to bring back Arkin on the practice squad today. Arkin has only been active for eight games in his career but has yet to play a single snap, which gives him practice-squad eligibility despite this being his third season with the club.
The Cowboys cut Arkin to make room for rookie safety Jakar Hamilton, who played because of an injury to J.J. Wilcox. Hamilton will likely stay up on the roster with Wilcox’s status uncertain and now Barry Church has a hamstring injury.
“We got to the point where we needed a safety based on our safety situation,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “And that was the one we felt we could make that move on the 11th hour and hopefully he can get past through and we can bring him back and put him on our practice roster and we’ve invested in him and we do like him.”
Garrett was asked if he was disappointed in Arkin’s progress, considering he was a fourth-round pick in 2011 and has yet to contribute in the regular season.
“There’s probably nobody on our football team who works harder and is more committed than David Arkin,” Garrett said. “He’s the right kind of guy and he’s working at it and he’s getting better. I think he has improved over the last couple of years and that’s why we’re happy to get him back and put him back on the practice roster and continue that development.”
During the last two training camps and preseasons, Arkin received more practice reps than any other linemen the last two years. With an abundance of injuries on the line, Arkin has played both at guard and center. This past summer, he was mostly at guard. He started the first preseason game at right guard, then started the third and fifth games at left guard.
The year before, he started the first three preseason games at center.
HOMECOMING DEBUT: Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath returning to Lions country with a star on his helmet
IRVING, Texas – Not long after Jeff Heath signed with the Dallas Cowboys, he noticed they were actually playing this season in Detroit, which is located just 39 miles from his hometown of Lake Orion, Mich.
His first thought was how great it’d be if he were on the team and traveling to the game.
But now, it looks like Heath will be doing even better than that. Because of a sprained knee injury to rookie safety J.J. Wilcox, there is a good chance Heath will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Lions, a team whom he grew up following.
And better yet, he’ll have quite a contingent of family and friends there to see him. Heath said this week he’s in the neighborhood of 80 tickets, and that number could grow now with his possibility of starting.
“It’s just a weird coincidence if it happens this week with me going back home,” Heath said. “But you never know when it’s going to be your time and your number gets called. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
While head coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t rule out Wilcox to play, Wilcox himself said it’s unlikely he would play this week and maybe not even next week against the Vikings. Garrett did have some positive things to say about Heath, an undrafted rookie from Saginaw Valley State in Michigan.
“We certainly like him. He’s done a lot of nice things for us,” Garrett said. “He’s a college free agent who came in and said ‘I’m going to make your football team.’ He first showed up on [special] teams but he’s been a solid performer on defense.”
Garrett was asked to name his best attribute but he didn’t come up with just one.
“He has a lot of good traits. Physically, he has a lot of tools,” Garrett said of Heath. “He’s big enough to play the position. He runs well. He has good ball skills. He’s physical. He just finds a way to get away from people and gets to the football.”
Last week, the Cowboys rotated Heath into the game on defense in the first quarter. While it was perceived at first that Wilcox was getting benched, it was simply a way to rotate Heath into the game.
“I think that really helped me and my confidence,” Heath said. “I know if I start this week, I’ll be more prepared for it because of I’ve gotten to play a little more.”
In the Eagles game, Heath was credited with a tackle on defense and another on special teams. He currently has five tackles and ranks second on the team with seven special teams stops.
Last week in Philly, Heath did come out of the game with a sore right forearm, which required an MRI on Monday. He downplayed the injury, though, and said it’s nothing that would keep him out of playing this week.
“I might wear something on it but it won’t be anything major,” Heath said of a possible brace. “It’ll be more like a tight wrap.”
It sounds like it’s going to take a lot more than a bruised forearm to keep Heath out of Sunday’s game, which has a chance to be a homecoming and his first NFL start, rolled into one.
ROOKIE’S MRI NEGATIVE: J.J. Wilcox has a sprained right knee; doubtful for Lions game
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys rookie safety J.J. Wilcox is arguably coming off the best game of his young career last week in Philadelphia. But it’s unlikely he’ll be able to follow head coach Jason Garrett’s motto and “stack good games together” when the team travels to Detroit.
Wilcox will likely have to miss Sunday’s matchup against the Lions after suffering a sprained right knee, which required an MRI Thursday afternoon. Wilcox said he had a sprained MCL, an injury he suffered on his left knee in college at Georgia Southern.
“It feel better this time than that injury,” Wilcox said. “I’m disappointed, but that’s football. That’s the way it goes.”
Wilcox suffered the injury late in today’s practice during red-zone drills when he came down awkwardly after competing for a pass with tight end Gavin Escobar.
Wilcox agreed he likely wouldn’t be able to play this week against the Detroit Lions and said it’s too early to tell if the Nov. 2 game with Minnesota Vikings is a possibility. But the rookie definitely perked up when asked about a possible return for the Saints game on Nov. 10.
“I don’t know just yet, but I don’t think it’ll be that bad,” Wilcox said. “I just have to work hard to get back soon.”
A third-round pick in the 2013 draft, Wilcox has been improving each week, and made a key play in last Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
“I really felt like I was coming on,” Wilcox said. “I’ve always had a lot [of confidence] but I know I’ve gotten better and felt like I was starting to really help the team. So hopefully this won’t be a big setback.”
If Wilcox doesn’t play, the Cowboys will likely start rookie Jeff Heath, who is battling an injury sustained on his right forearm last week. He said the issue won’t keep him out of practice or the game.
“I might wear something on it but it won’t be anything major,” Heath said of possible brace. “It’ll be more like a tight wrap.”
The Cowboys also have Danny McCray, who is one of the team’s better special teams contributors. The club could add a fourth safety – possibly rookie Jakar Hamilton, who is currently on the practice squad.
Wilcox is currently seventh on the team with 28 tackles. He took over as a starter in Week 3 against the Rams and started five straight games, making a career-high nine tackles against Denver.
He won the starting job outright from Will Allen, who was eventually waived. Wilcox had a stellar training camp and preseason despite having to miss nearly a week in the middle of camp to be with his ailing mother, who passed away in August.
Wilcox still returned to play in the last two preseason games and got a few snaps in the first two regular-season games before the coaching staff made him a starter. Wilcox has had two interceptions nullified this year – one by penalty against the Rams and the other by the replay booth last week.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions | J.J. Wilcox injured today
While facing Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is daunting enough, the Dallas Cowboys might have to do it without one of their starting safeties.
Rookie J.J. Wilcox suffered a knee injury in today’s practice and will undergo an MRI later in the afternoon. The Cowboys are fearing a possible MCL sprain but at this point, before the test results, it doesn’t appear to be a season-ending injury. The injury occurred in the red-zone drills when he battled tight end Gavin Escobar for a ball in the end zone and came down awkwardly on his knee.
A third-round pick from Georgia Southern, Wilcox has been improving each week, and made a key play in last week’s game against the Eagles when he deflected away what appeared to be a touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Wilcox also had an interception that was called back when replay officials said the ball first hit the ground, ruling an incomplete pass.
If Wilcox doesn’t play, the Dallas Cowboys will likely start rookie Jeff Heath, who is battling an injury of his own. Heath sustained a right forearm injury last week but said the injury won’t keep him out of practice or the game.
The Cowboys also have Danny McCray, who is one of the team’s better special teams contributor. But if Wilcox can’t go, it’s likely the club would need to add a fourth safety – possibly rookie Jakar Hamilton, who is currently on the practice squad. To sign Hamilton, the Cowboys would have to release another player.
Wilcox is currently seventh on the team with 28 tackles. He took over as a starter in Week 3 against the Rams and started five straight games. He made a career-high nine tackles against Denver.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas releases veteran safety Will Allen
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys released safety Will Allen this afternoon.
Allen, a 10-year veteran, signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys during free agency this past spring after a three-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He started for the team at safety through training camp and the first two games of the regular season, but he was eventually replaced by rookie J.J. Wilcox ahead of the Cowboys’ Week 3 game against St. Louis on Sept. 22.
The roster currently sits at 52, as the Cowboys didn’t make any immediate moves to fill Allen’s spot. The team might elevate a player from the practice squad later in the week depending on injury concerns.
The Cowboys’ practice squad currently features two safeties in Jakar Hamilton and Micah Pellerin, should they decide to bolster the depth in their defensive backfield.
Looking forward, the Cowboys also are still hopeful for the potential return of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who is eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list next week. If Ratliff is able to return, the team would need to free up a roster spot for him.
During his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Allen notched nine total tackles in five games with three passes defensed and an interception. His coverage came under fire in the season opening win against the New York Giants, which saw the Cowboys surrender 450 passing yards, though Allen did grab one of three interceptions of Eli Manning in that game.
He was also called for holding during a fourth quarter kick return in Sunday’s 51-48 loss to Denver.
Since he was on the Cowboys’ Week 1 roster, all of the money on Allen’s $905,000 contract is guaranteed.
Allen spent the first six seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected him 111th overall out of Ohio State in the 2004 NFL Draft. He spent five of his six seasons in Tampa with current Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who was the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator from 1996-2008.
ROOKIE ON THE VERGE: J.J. Wilcox climbs depth chart at safety
J.J. Wilcox set be first rookie to start at safety for Dallas Cowboys since 2006; Garrett says he’s ready
Coach Jason Garrett hasn’t fully admitted it and rookie safety J.J. Wilcox did his to best play coy with the media.
But the third-round pick from tiny Georgia Southern has worked with the starters alongside strong safety Barry Church in practice and is target to place veteran Will Allen with the first team in Sunday’s game against the Rams.
Team vice president Stephen Jones confirmed on the radio Friday afternoon, however, that Wilcox will indeed start, becoming the first rookie to start at safety for the Cowboys since Pat Watkins in 2006.
“He did get some snaps with the first team,” Garrett said. “He has done a nice job. He is getting better and better over the course of training camp and the early part of the season. He is a good football player. Will Allen has done some nice things for us as well. We are just getting those guys ready to play.”
That Wilcox is on the verge of being a starter for the Cowboys is even more interesting when you consider his background. He played running back and receiver at tiny Georgia Southern for three years before moving to safety as a senior. And even after being drafted by the Cowboys, he was forced to miss 11 days in training camp following the death of his mother, Marshell, thus slowing his development.
“Yeah, but it’s all about what you dream of,” Wilcox said when asked if the he’s surprised by the opportunity so early. “When u get a chance to finally do it, you got to be ready, it’s a dream come true, a small town kid, a small time school coming to the big show and this is what you look for what you dream for.”
Garrett admits to having had concerns about Wilcox’s background but that was before he showed up. Since then, he’s been nothing but impressive with his attitude, instincts, athleticism and playmaking skills. He said Wilcox has certainly progressed enough for an opportunity to start.
“Well, we like what he’s done and we drafted him where we drafted him for a reason and that was a concern of ours just really based on biography more than anything else,” Garrett said. “It wasn’t anything we necessarily saw on tape that would be a concern for us. 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.”
Despite missing 11 days in training camp and one preseason game dealing with his mother’s death, Wilcox still led the Cowboys in tackles during the preseason. He also had an interception. But he said he had some making up to do.
“Anytime you stay a day away from football, it puts you weeks behind,” Wilcox said. “So I had to catch up mentally and physically; Just get back into shape and get back mentally, just getting back into a groove and getting a feel for it and catching up with the schemes. Coach (Monte) Kiffin does a great job with me day in and day out staying after (practice), and it’s coming along pretty good.”
Garrett said Wilcox’s development has been rapid.
“He has improved a great deal,” Garrett said. “He played really well in the spring. He had a good start to camp, then his mom passed away. That took him away from what we were doing here and rightfully so. It took him a little time coming back from that. Those are difficult things to do deal with. but he has found his stride again in the last few weeks. He has done a lot of good things.”
The decision to move Wilcox into the start’s role is also timely considering what lies ahead for the Cowboys. They play against the pass-happy Rams on Sunday, followed by the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers and the Broncos and Peyton Manning.
Wilcox is faster than Allen. He covers better and plays better in space as well as being a ferocious hitter. Church said the rookie will bring more play-making skills to the secondary that will be under fire the next few weeks.
“His coverage skills are great and his hitting across the middle is going to have receivers scared and have alligator arms,” Church said of Wilcox. “He brings that physical presence to the secondary. It should help create a lot of turnovers and be a boost.”
There is a chance is Wilcox’s father James and sister Lesha might be on hand for his first start on Sunday _ if they can find the time following his sister’s cheerleading competition.
Certainly his thoughts before the game will return to his mother, whom he has called his inspiration for making the league. But there will be no regrets about her missing out on his momentous achievement.
“She’s seen me play,” Wilcox said of his mother. “She’s had a chance to see her son actually make it to what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s the main thing, and I have to keep it living and just make her happy and do what she wanted me to do.”
DALLAS COWBOYS FAMILY NEWS: J.J. Wilcox back with his teammates
IRVING, Texas — Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox returned to the Cowboys’ practice fields on Wednesday after being away for 10 days because of the death of his mother, Marshell. She passed away on Aug. 13 after a long battle with Lupis. She was 49.
“It’s tough, it’s tough, when you get accustomed to somebody for 33 years with my dad, and 22 years with me and they are all of sudden gone, it’s tough,” Wilcox said. “It’s still fighting me to this day. I felt it a little at practice, but I’m going to be strong, be blessed and I’m going to keep pushing.”
Wilcox didn’t tell any of his teammates or coaches his mom was ill until he got a phone call the day after the Oakland Raiders second preseason game on Aug. 9. Wilcox was told by family members to return to Cairo, Ga., when his mother took a turn for the worst. Wilcox told a Cowboys administration assistant about his mother and that’s how some team members found out about it.
Several players texted, called and fellow rookie, cornerback B.W. Webb wore Wilcox’s jersey during a walkthrough practice before the Arizona Cardinals game last week as a sign of support.
“It made a difference,” Wilcox said. “When I saw that it definitely brought tears to my eyes, and let me know that the guys still love me and they’re still backing me 110 percent when I’m not here. So that makes a difference.”
It’s uncertain if Wilcox will play in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, but Wilcox said he was happy to return to playing football after taking care of his family.
“Oh, it’s good, man, it’s a relief,” the Cowboys’ third-round pick said. “Especially in the hard times that I had back home for the last week or so. So it was just good to get back and have fun again.”
BROTHERLY LOVE: Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb honors teammate by wearing J.J. Wilcox’s No. 27 in practice
Dallas Cowboys rookie cornerback B.W. Webb wanted J.J. Wilcox to know that he was thinking of him. So Webb wore Wilcox’s No. 27 jersey to practice Friday.
“That’s like my brother, so I’m just showing my love, let him know I’m still here with him,” Webb said. “Whatever he needs I’ve got him.”
Wilcox has been excused from practice since his mother, Marshell Wilcox, became gravely ill. Marshell Wilcox died Tuesday after a long battle with lupus, a chronic and lifelong autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissue and organs. The funeral is Saturday in Cairo, Ga.
Wilcox is expected to rejoin the team in Dallas.
“I’ve talked to him,” Webb said. “He’s doing a little better, but it’s hard right now. I can’t imagine losing your parent. I’m just want to let him know I’m here for him if he needs anything.”
Webb will wear his own No. 20 in the game Saturday against the Cardinals.
DALLAS COWBOYS FAMILY NEWS: Mother of safety J.J. Wilcox looses long battle with Lupus
OXNARD, Calif. – Cowboys Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox will rejoin the team next week in Dallas after all arrangements are taken care of for his mother, who passed away after a long battle with Lupus.
Wilcox left camp after the second preseason game against the Raiders to be with his mother, Marshell, and had been excused by the team for as long as he needed. He’ll be with his family this week and will not rejoin the team in California.
Head coach Jason Garrett said it’s a tough situation for anyone, let alone a 22-year-old rookie just beginning his dream of playing in the NFL.
“It’s obviously a very difficult time, and we have complete respect for what is going on in his life right now and want to give him all the opportunity to make sure he takes care of that the way he needs to,” Garrett said. “All the support systems are available to him. I think it’s just a really difficult thing.”
Wilcox’s mother managed to be by her son’s side when Wilcox was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round this year, despite her sickness which had her going back and forth from the doctor’s office for treatment. Wilcox said after the draft how much it meant (see below) that he could share that moment with her.
“She’s way tougher than I am,” Wilcox said after the draft. “She’s a strong young lady. I’m just blessed to have her in my life.”
The safety from Georgia Southern has been one of the top rookies in camp, leading the team with six combined tackles in the Raiders game, while also picking off a pass in the end zone.
RELATED: Wilcox thinking of his mother as he lives out his NFL dream
IRVING, Texas (May 17, 2013) – It took longer for J.J. Wilcox to gather himself and respond to the voice on the other side of the phone than it did to realize the area code the call came from.
The former Georgia Southern safety couldn’t explain all the emotions enveloping him when he answered the phone call from a Texas number to hear owner/general manager Jerry Jones’ voice on the other end. His dream became a reality in just a few seconds, and his mother, Marshell Wilcox, was by his side to watch it all unfold.
“It meant a lot, just to see her right there fighting and standing strong,” J.J. said. “It brought tears to my eyes. I cried. Y’all probably heard it on that draft call. It was touching. It was emotional.”
Wilcox told himself he wouldn’t shed a tear when or if he got the call. But he couldn’t prepare himself for the emotions.
A year ago, he didn’t think he’d get drafted after playing on offense the first three years of his college career. When a terrific season at safety reeled in more scouts, he thought he might get picked up somewhere in free agency. Then his draft prospects started soaring after the Senior Bowl and the Combine.
All the while, Wilcox’s mother was travelling back and forth from the doctor’s office for treatment.
Marshell, 49, continues to fight her battle with lupus and the lung problems associated with it. Wilcox said the disease began affecting his mother’s lungs more seriously three or four years ago. He’s always wanted to get her better treatment, but hasn’t had the means to do so.
Wilcox is accustomed to the aches, pains and jolts of playing an entire football season, but he can’t fathom the pain that his mother has endured for years.
“She’s way tougher than I am,” Wilcox said. “She’s a strong young lady. I’m just blessed to have her in my life.”
Marshell, who lives where J.J. grew up in Cairo, Ga., was strong enough to head home from the doctor to watch her son get drafted. Wilcox said nothing was going to hold his mom back from watching her son live out his dream.
A selection in the third round, and the multi-million dollar contract that will ensue, should allow him to help his mother tremendously. Wilcox’s focus on the field is fighting for a starting spot at safety, as one of the most inexperienced defensive players on the roster. His focus off the field is on fighting to get his mother the best treatment she deserves.
“She’s comfortable and she doesn’t have to worry about me any more,” Wilcox said. “So that’s my plan when I’m here, help her and get her health back up to par. She’s a strong young lady, and she’s the reason I’m here now and push the way I do and fight.”
It didn’t take long for Wilcox to see the enormous jump from the Southern Conference to the NFL, participating in the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp last weekend.
“The speed is two times faster than college,” he said. “Some players like I said in college, you could slack off one or two plays. Not here. Not in this game. The speed, the intensity and the atmosphere of this whole NFL is different.”
But picking up and adapting is nothing new for Wilcox, who switched from receiver to running back and, finally, to safety.
That was a process that took some convincing.
“One day my coaching staff came to me, my head coach, Jeff Monken, he came to me and said, ‘Hey, I need the leadership in the secondary,” Wilcox said. “I need somebody that’s going to be physical, aggressive and a leader back there. He said I fit that description the best. He gave it to me and I ran with it from there.
“I was kind of hesitant at first. I talked to my parents, and my parents told me just be the best team player you can be. That’s my attack and that’s what I hope to bring here to the Cowboys, be a good team player and hopefully bring a Super Bowl here.”
Despite his history on the offensive side, Wilcox has never been bashful about laying out his opponents. He loves the physical nature of the safety position, and his new secondary coach would agree.
“A lot of times when you see offensive guys make the jump, it takes them a little while to figure that part out,” said Jerome Henderson. “That came natural for him. When you watch him play, you’re like, ‘Oh God, he’s going to kill somebody.’”
Any initial reservations switching over to defense are now gone. Wilcox said all the ball skills, footwork and route recognition he’s gained over the years from playing on both sides of the ball should be able to help him moving forward.
Wilcox admitted when he was watching the draft he looked at his fits with every team as each pick and each round passed. He quickly found out after he was drafted that both safety spots are potentially up for grabs in Dallas.
He admits he plays more off instincts right now, considering his lack of experience at the position, but that doesn’t mean he feels incapable of starting immediately.
In fact, he thinks he’ll be ready to compete for a starting spot in Week 1.
“No doubt about it,” Wilcox said. “With this coaching staff, anything is possible.”
The novice safety from Georgia Southern has already surpassed many expectations by getting drafted in the third round. He said getting drafted was a nice Mother’s Day gift, but he’s still got a lot left to do, both for her and for his NFL future.
“The journey just begins,” Wilcox said. “It doesn’t end here. That’s the main thing, and that’s how I’m going to attack it.”
TEXAS 2 SHAKEDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defense showing potential to be better than good (Special Feature)
OAKLAND – When the 2013 team profiles and scouting reports are listed, it usually mentions key losses and additions. And on defense, the “players acquired” section will have guys like Will Allen and Justin Durant. A more updated list could include guys like George Selvie and Nick Hayden.
So it makes sense for people to have their hesitations about this defense and how good it can be.
After three weeks of training camp practice, two preseason games and really just two series from the first-team (Texas 2) defense, I’ve changed my tune about this squad. It’s early but I’ve raised my ceiling and expectations for this group.
This defense has the ability to be better than good. It could be a great defense.
And it’s not because of the additions like Durant and Allen and anyone else new to this unit. The real additions on this defense are Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. And the impact they’ve already made is definitely noticeable.
The first-teamers didn’t play long in Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Raiders at O.co Stadium in Oakland.
It’s not just the turnovers. To me, it’s the pressure. They know how to generate a pass-rush and they’ve done it with players who don’t have the credentials like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
If you’ve watched one practice in Oxnard, you’ve seen D-Ware do anything he wants. He’s been the best player at camp – on either side of the ball. He’s been so good that we’ve started to have our doubts about Tyron Smith, who has lost way more battles than he’s tied. I can’t ever remember Smith actually winning one of those with Ware.
And he comes out here in Oakland and makes a nice tackle in the running game, showing this 4-3 switch shouldn’t affect him at all in that department. Ware doesn’t need a great scheme to be an All-Pro. It does appear that he’s in one again and that will only enhance his performance.
TEXAS 2 HIGHLIGHTS: Lee causes fumble, Hatcher recovers
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defense forces Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn to fumble the ball and giving the Dallas Cowboys great field position.
Click HERE to watch short video
“Lining up at defensive end is easier. You are down in the trenches,” Ware said in a halftime quote Friday night. “There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide, but when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game.”
What I like about this defense is how aggressive they’ve been already – and there’s a combined five Pro Bowls that hasn’t even been out there. Anthony Spencer is better than Selvie. Jay Ratliff is better than Nick Hayden. If and when those guys return for the start of the regular season, the defense will be even more dynamic.
Spencer is such a tough matchup for opposing linemen because he plays with uncanny technique. That’s part of his game that has really improved over the last few years. In this scheme, he might be even better, especially with the amount of attention that must be placed on Ware’s side.
If Ratliff can come back soon and provide a 1-2 punch with Hatcher, this really can be an explosive front-four with a healthy rotation of guys like Kyle Wilber, Ben Bass, Selvie, Hayden and Sean Lissemore. I’m not sure all nine will make the team and/or be available on game days, but it’s a solid group from top to bottom. And it has the potential to be even better because of the scheme.
But what I really like about this defense isn’t just the front four. It’s the ability to get pass rush from the linebackers. If, and it’s the second-biggest “if-he-can-stay-healthy moniker on this team behind DeMarco Murray, but if Sean Lee can stay healthy, he’ll be an absolute star. He’s got everything going for him, except the fact he hasn’t played a season from start to finish.
If that can happen for him, Sean Lee will be considered one of the NFL’s best linebackers, possibly even in the same category with a guy like Patrick Willis in San Francisco. Yeah, I know what I just did – comparing Lee to a perennial Pro Bowler such as Willis. Again, the caveat is Lee must stay healthy – something he has never done. But that’s literally how good he can be.
I mean, we all can see that. His instincts are off the chart. And you put him a defense like this, he can be every bit as good as Hardy Nickerson was in Tampa Bay. Now can he be Urlacher-good? That’s a stretch but it’s a nice goal for a player like Lee.
Now, if you really go back and dissect that sack play he had against the Raiders Friday night, Lee still got some help from his good friend Ware. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete superstar like D-Ware in the lineup. We all saw Lee make the hit. But it was Ware’s rush inside that forced the line to adjust. If there’s anyone that can’t be unblocked on a play, it’s Ware. But his hard rush inside freed up Lee to make the hit.
You’ll see Lee in the backfield on play. And 25 yards down the field in pass coverage on the next. This middle linebacker position isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to be good enough at both to play the run and the pass like Lee has shown. He’s a special player and like Ware, has the chance to thrive in this scheme.
TEXAS 2 HIGHLIGHTS: J.J. Wilcox end zone INT
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defensive back J.J. Wilcox picks off Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor for a Dallas Cowboys touchback.
Click HERE to watch short video
It’s not just about the players, but takeaways, too.
The turnovers are evident. I guess they were always stressed in the past but not like this. The coaches talk about turnovers in the meeting rooms and then coming out of the meetings there is a football on display that defenders must grab. It’s just always on the mind and it’s starting to translate to the field.
On the second-quarter drive where the second-teamers were gashed for about eight straight players, leaving J.J. Wilcox to make every tackle, they still find a way to tighten it up. Wilcox finished off the drive with a pick in the end zone.
Last week, one of the rookie draft picks scored a touchdown on an interception. This week, they saved a touchdown by an interception.
All in all, I’m just getting these vibes the defense will be much better than people think.
And this is, in no way, a knee-jerk reaction from the game. In fact, I told some of my colleagues this idea and was just hoping the defense would hold its own in the one or two drives from the starters.
They did that perfectly.
It’s early for sure. The defense has played the Dolphins and the Raiders. I get that. Ryan Tanneyhill and Matt Flynn are not exactly the NFL’s elite. So it’ll get better of course.
But the potential of this defense, at least from this perspective, is a squad that can be much better than good.
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SCOUTING REPORT–SAFETIES: Dallas Cowboys rookie J. J. Wilcox may contribute right away
As we sit just a few short days from the opening of training camp in Oxnard, on top of the depth chart for the safety position are the names of Barry Church and the veteran Will Allen. The names that are below those of Danny McCray, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and Jakar Hamilton.
It’s not a group at this point that would make you forget the names of the greats that have played here before but it’s a group that has a great deal of potential.
This coaching staff has the upmost respect for Allen and his body of work through the years which is why you see him a top this depth chart. I studied Allen myself in games last season for the Steelers when he made some injury starts against Cowboys’ division foes, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and he was more than solid. His play was steady and sure. Where Allen has an advantage over the others is in his experience which is a nice trait to have.
Over the past season, despite the fact that he was dealing with an injury, I still had a great deal of faith in Matt Johnson and what he could bring to this squad and I still believe that but the player that has drawn my most interest, is J.J. Wilcox.
When I first observed him on tape at Georgia Southern, I was shocked that he had only played the position for one season. He didn’t play like a small college player. You could see in his awareness and passion for the position and that he was a natural. When you watched him play, you saw a player that loves the game. A player that was not afraid or scared to mix it up when called on.
Where there were some concerns in my view was how much coverage that he actually played and would his movement skills translate in order to function in this scheme. There are times where the safety is asked to take the middle of the field and react to the sideline to help the corner.
In OTA’s and minicamp practices, you could see that he understood his responsibilities. He was capable of playing with range. One of the first things you notice about his game, is that he is always around the football run or pass. There were times in the practices where he was playing in the short middle of the field and he was able to read and adjust to the routes not only to knock balls down but secure interceptions as well.
Wilcox doesn’t play like a guy that lacks experience for the position. I can only recall one time in the several practices where Jerome Henderson had to correct him on the angle that he took to the ball. With Wilcox, you didn’t see the mental busts and mistakes or confusion that goes with a rookie safety. The mental side of the game is where I thought he might struggle the most because when they put on the pads that will not be an issue at all. He is more than willing to light up a ball carrier when given the opportunity.
I thought it was an outstanding move by this front office to go out and try to protect itself by signing Will Allen but there are some talented players behind him which is a good thing depth wise but the one that might be the most talented is J.J. Wilcox. I do not see J.J. Wilcox waiting around to play in this defense. He has already picked up things very easily that I thought he would have struggled with and that is a positive sign.
It is right that the coaches have put Allen in the spot that he is on the depth chart because of his experience but the more that we see Wilcox practice and the more opportunities that he gets, it will be harder for these coaches not to line him up next to Barry Church much more sooner than later.
SPRINTS, NOT SQUATS: Dallas Cowboys safety Matt Johnson adjusts fitness program to reduce hamstring issues
IRVING — In examining why he had reoccurring hamstring injuries last year, Dallas Cowboys second-year safety Matt Johnson said he realized it could have had something to do with his weight room routine. Johnson said he cut back this off-season on the amount of weight he was squatting.
“We’ve done more hamstring work instead of putting on 400 pounds and squatting,” Johnson said Tuesday after the Cowboys’ first organized team activity practice. “When I was in college, I did that some. When you get to the pros, and playing at safety, I don’t need to squat 500 pounds. We did more position specific and more dynamic work. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to play football. I was big enough.”
Johnson said he’s lost three or four pounds and weighs about 212 now.
“I feel better at that weight. This league is all about running,” Johnson said. “Obviously you have to be big, too, but on the back end, you have to run a lot.”
Johnson – a 2012 fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington – is competing this off-season for a starting safety spot against veteran Will Allen, who joined the Cowboys as a free agent addition after starting seven games for Pittsburgh last year, and rookie third-round pick J.J. Wilcox from Georgia Southern.
Johnson injured his left hamstring in June last year and missed most of training camp. He did get in a few padded camp practices and was in for about a dozen plays in the Cowboys’ third preseason game against St. Louis.
However, on his first play against the Rams, Johnson felt pain in his right hamstring.
Johnson’s right hamstring injury kept him out until mid-October. He returned to practice and was set to appear in his first NFL regular-season game Oct. 21 at Carolina when – two days before the game – he again injured his right hamstring in practice.
Last year at this time, Johnson wasn’t allowed to participate in the Cowboys’ OTAs because he was still finishing school at Eastern Washington.
In mid-March, Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham called Johnson “the greatest safety to ever play” in an interview on KRLD-FM.
“The reason I know that is I’ve been doing this 35 years,” Sham said, “and he’s the only guy I’ve ever seen make the team practicing once, so he must be the greatest safety to every play.”
Through all the hamstring injuries, the Cowboys stuck with Johnson last season. They carried him on the active roster most of the year before finally putting him on injured reserve in mid-November.
Johnson, however, wouldn’t have survived on the Cowboys’ roster if they didn’t believe in his potential.
“His ball skills are incredible,” Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “When the ball is in the air, he knows how to go up and play it.”
THE TEXAS 2 ENFORCER: Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox’s aggressive play among rookie minicamp highlights
IRVING – Dallas Cowboys rookie J.J. Wilcox relished contact long before his coaches moved him to safety his senior year at Georgia Southern.
“That’s why my touchdowns were limited,” said Wilcox, referring to his 18 scores as a running back and receiver for the Eagles.
“I wanted to be a bruiser, run guys over. I like being physical.”
That was evident the second day of rookie minicamp, which ended Sunday. In a pads-free, non-contact 11-on-11 session, the third-round pick collided with undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence, sending the running back from Missouri to the ground and eliciting nods of approval from onlookers.
“We got no pads on and he’s a pretty big guy, so it was a good collision,” said Wilcox.
Typical of a hard hitter, Wilcox was unapologetic for his aggressive play.
“They tell you to fly around,” he said. “(The coaches) know it wasn’t on purpose. I’m a rookie, second day of camp. They figure, ‘Hey, he doesn’t know better.’ Next time (it happens), I’ll probably get in trouble for it.”
Perhaps. Or just maybe Wilcox will get a pat on the rump from a staff overseeing a team in dire need of defensive playmakers.
The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in January and replaced him with 4-3 scheme guru Monte Kiffin partly because Ryan’s 3-4 defense forced just 16 turnovers last season. The Chicago Bears registered an NFL-high 44.
“So that’s 28 more scoring opportunities,” Garrett said in February. “The thing we’ve probably done least well is take the football away. And (turnover differential) is probably the single most important statistic in football.”
Wilcox’s collision with Lawrence wasn’t his only highlight. He also had an interception while defending a tight end on a seam route.
Bottom line: Wilcox was one of the top performers at rookie minicamp, very much looking the part of a playmaking safety even if this is only his second year at the position.
“Initially, when you (hear) this guy used to play running back, this guy used to play receiver, now he’s going to play safety in the NFL, you say, ‘Wait a second here,’ ” coach Jason Garrett said. “But then you watch him play, he shows the traits and the demeanor.”
Despite Wilcox’s inexperience at safety, he has a shot to start at a position of weakness.
“Unproven would be the overall assessment,” owner Jerry Jones said last week when asked to evaluate the team’s safeties, which include a veteran recovering from a torn Achilles (Barry Church), a second-year pro who did not play as a rookie because of hamstring injuries (Matt Johnson), a veteran more suited for special-teams duty (Danny McCray) and a free agent who signed a one-year deal (Will Allen).
But Jones is confident Kiffin will position the safeties to succeed.
“I think we will benefit from a scheme that emphasizes what these guys are: big, physical guys that like to hit,” Jones said. “With (hard-hitting safety John) Lynch in Monte’s background, you say, ‘Duh, that’s the picture you see,’ but these guys have all the same thing that comes up: tough.”
Judging by his performance at rookie minicamp, Wilcox fits the bill.
TBAB’S MUST-SEE VIDEO: J.J. Wilcox stands out in Cowboys rookie minicamp
J.J. Wilcox talks about participating in his first NFL practice, and how his switch to safety in college came about. Excellent footage of his aggressive style and poise when talking with the Dallas media.
TWEAKING THE TEXAS 2 DEFENSE: Jerry Jones confident in the safeties on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster
Jerry Jones discussed his confidence in the safeties on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster during last week’s conference call with season-ticket holders.
“I think we’re in good shape at safety,” Jones said.
Yes, Jones is well aware that the projected starting safeties have a combined four NFL starts. Those are all by Barry Church, who was thought highly enough of at Valley Ranch to receive a four-year, $9 million deal (plus $3.4 million in incentives).
The team also has Matt Johnson, who missed all of his rookie season due to hamstring problems and other injuries.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a player impress our staff without having played in a ballgame any more than Matt Johnson,” Jones stated.
The Cowboys’ other alternatives at safety: third-round pick J.J. Wilcox; nine-year veteran Will Allen; and three-year vet Danny McCray.
“I think we’ve really given ourselves a lot of potential,” Jones said. “The coaches told me (with) the scheme, ‘Don’t worry as much about range.’ I said, ‘What? Don’t worry as much about range?’
“(Kiffin) said, ‘No, our scheme gives them the angles. It gives them the angles. Get us somebody that is young. Don’t worry as much about experience as you have in the past. Get us some young players with instincts and let us go from there with them.’”
Believe it or not, that actually passes the smell test, given Kiffin’s Tampa Bay track record.
When Kiffin arrived in Tampa in 1996, the Bucs had precious little experience at safety. Their strong safety had six starts in the previous three seasons of his NFL career. Their free safety started three games as a rookie the previous year.
John Lynch, a third-round pick in 1993, ended up establishing himself as one of the elite strong safeties in NFL history, playing in nine Pro Bowls. The Bucs filled free safety with a handful of mid-round picks and low-priced free agents during Lynch’s Tampa Bay tenure, finishing top 10 in both major defensive categories every year but Lynch’s first full season as a starter, when they were 11th in yards allowed.
Kiffin’s history of making the most out of medium-level investments at safety offers no guarantees, of course. It does, however, provide legitimate proof for those inside Valley Ranch who insist that there’s no need to panic about the Cowboys’ safety situation.
THREE POTENTIAL SLEEPERS: Dallas Cowboys nab trio of players on Scott Wright’s list
Trying to find future stars in the later rounds of the NFL Draft is a tough task, but if Scott Wright’s sleeper list is any indication, the Dallas Cowboys could have a head start on the competition.
Wright composed a lengthy list of 95 potential sleepers in the 2013 draft class, and a pair of Cowboys draft picks are right near the top.
William and Mary cornerback B.W. Webb is No. 4 on the list, earning a 2nd- or 3rd-round grade from Wright. The Cowboys snagged Webb in the 4th round on Saturday.
Right behind Webb is Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox at No. 5, who the Cowboys took in the 3rd round. Wilcox is a strong athlete, but his stock wasn’t especially high because he only played one year at safety in college.
One other new Cowboys made the cut on Wright’s list. South Carolina State safety Jakar Hamilton, who the Cowboys signed as an undrafted free agent, came in at No. 48. Hamilton was a four-star recruit coming out of high school who signed with the Georgia Bulldogs, but wound up transferring to South Carolina State in 2011.
See list below
THIRD ROUND HIT: Dallas Cowboys draft Georgia Southern punisher J.J. Wilcox
J.J. Wilcox, one of the Dallas Cowboys’ two third-round picks Friday night, is a project after starting only one season as a safety at Georgia Southern.
Previously a wide receiver and slot back, Wilcox needs plenty of work coverage-wise. But the 6-foot, 213-pound Georgia native has already earned a reputation as a powerful hitter known for exploding into ball carriers.
“Wilcox is an interesting guy,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He was a running back and a receiver for most of his career and became a safety this past year. If you watch him play, he leaps off the screen at you. He’s physical, he can run, he loves to hit. He just plays with great explosiveness.”
Garrett said the Cowboys were impressed with how quickly Wilcox adapted to playing safety.
“You could seem him grow through the course of the year,” Garrett said. “We liked his athletic ability, we liked his potential and we liked the demeanor with which he played. He’s a hard-playing guy, a physical guy, and that’s what you want from your safety. He can tackle, but we also feel he can grow into a back-end player.”
Growing up in Cairo, Ga., Wilcox said he was a fan of hard-hitting Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety John Lynch.
“When you talk about hard hitters and guys that play with enthusiasm, you have to mention John Lynch,” Wilcox said. “He just had a great style of play, he was dominant and he put fear in guys’ hearts.
“Every safety wants to have that type of spirit and that type of reputation around the league. I definitely don’t want to leave him off my list because he’s one of the ones I watched growing up in my backyard playing in the woods back there with the guys.”
So did Wilcox lay guys out while “playing in the woods?”
“I laid a couple of guys out,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I got laid out a couple of times, too. But I was one of the ones that was usually on top often.”
All that sounds great, but after a ho-hum effort in free agency due to salary cap issues, the Cowboys needed to draft walk-in starters in the third round. Wilcox seems more like a project than someone who can compete right away for a starting job with Barry Church, Matt Johnson and Will Allen.
Garrett, though, said that isn’t necessarily the case.
“We certainly feel he’s an outstanding special-teams player,” Garrett said of Wilcox, “but we’d like to think he can compete for one of those safety spots right off the bat.”
Said Jerry Jones, “Third-round pick, by definition, is a starter. Not necessarily the first year, but is a starter and you shouldn’t have drafted him if he is not capable of being a starter.”
RELATED: J.J. Wilcox loves him some Jerry Jones
IRVING, Texas — On his pre-draft visit with the Dallas Cowboys, safety J.J. Wilcox came away enamored with owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
“Mr. Jerry Jones is one of the best general managers and best owners I’ve met,” Wilcox said. “He’s calm, collected and energetic. You don’t see that much from an owner. They’re mostly laid back.”
Thin at safety, the Cowboys are hoping Wilcox can contribute his first year with designs on him starting I the future if not immediately. The team’s other forays into small-school safeties in recent years include Akwaski Owusu-Ansah (Indiana, Pa., fourth round, 2010) and Matt Johnson (Eastern Washington, fourth round, 2012).
Wilcox has played one year of safety but caught attention from the Senior Bowl.
“There’s a lot of household names in the NFL from smaller schools,” Wilcox said.
2013 NFL DRAFT: Random pre-draft and post-draft tidbits
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys still haven’t come to a final decision with right tackle Doug Free.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the two parties need to get something resolved, but they haven’t heard an answer back yet about whether or not Free will accept a pay cut.
“We want him,” Jones said. “We’d love to have him here. I think he’d love to be here. Now the question is, it’s got to work for him and it’s got to work for us.”
Free agent veteran tackles Tyson Clabo and Eric Winston are still available for the taking if the Cowboys choose to make a move after a down year for Doug Free, who ended up splitting time with Jermey Parnell.
“He wants to play better than he played,” Jones said. “I think he’d be the first to tell you that. I think he played better toward the end.”
The Cowboys have thrown around the idea about moving him to guard, but as of this point that doesn’t appear likely.
Editors comment: I’d like to see Doug Free’s agent and the Dallas Cowboys work out a new contract that has incentives that allows Free to keep his money with productivity incentives while allow the Cowboys to reduce his salary cap numbers with lower productivity. The current contract can have a lowered cap number, while providing substantial incentive dollars if Doug Free returns to form.
Tony Romo offers pre-draft opinions
Much was made of the tidbit, revealed on Friday, that Romo himself came to Valley Ranch to evaluate Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams ahead of their eventual selections.
Apparently, Romo visited with both Jerry and Stephen Jones for about an hour during the tight end meeting room late Friday afternoon.
But Jones was quick to point out that Romo hasn’t been hard to find this offseason.
“Make no mistake about it, Romo has been all over this place,” Jones said. “He hasn’t been in here every day in this draft room, but he has been all over this place back here with the coaches. He’s in the building; it’s not much effort to bring him in.”
Editors comment: I believe we’re going to see a major transformation within Tony Romo and the organization beginning this offseason. Expect him to be much more involved in “all things” offensive. He’s reached a point in maturity and experience were his input can really help with aspects seen on the field and those decision made behind closed doors.
The Wilcox factor – The More You Can Do …
For three seasons at Georgia Southern, J.J. Wilcox played running back and receiver. Not until late August did he get the chance to move over to defense.
Less than a year later, he’s a third-round pick of the Cowboys (80th overall) with a shot to compete for a starting job.
Wilcox said he believes switching positions didn’t hurt his chances of becoming a higher pick, but probably enhanced them. And more importantly, will allow him to compete for a spot.
“It doesn’t make you limited. You come in and the team can use you anywhere,” Wilcox said. “ I think it helps out a lot with ball skills, foot work, hips and dictation that you need to be a good safety such as good route running and understanding how the receivers run their routes and how they come out and what their stems are, and stuff like that. Playing offense for three years helped me out back at safety this year and hopefully this will transfer over to the NFL and I’ll become one of the best safeties in the NFL.”
Despite not playing the position until his senior season, Wilcox said he always eyed the safety spot.
“I always wanted to be a safety. I had love for the game from day one,” Wilcox said. “Some of my favorite players are from the safety position and I grew up watching the Cowboys. It’s just a blessing to just put a star on the side of my helmet.”
Editors comment: The local media has had their eyes on J.J. Wilcox for quite some time now. He is very highly regarded in local football circles. I think we can expect big things from Wilcox on the field and locker room. He is a smart diversified player with great leadership qualities.