There are certain positions on the Dallas Cowboys' roster that have their depth chart all but filled in before training camp even begins. Strong safety is not one of them. Dallas has several players gunning for the starting job opposite Barry Church, all of which have minimal experience in the NFL.
The strong safety position battle will be one of the more exciting and the one that will have the most direct impact on the Cowboys' success in 2014. Let's take a look at the players who will be hoping to come out with the starting gig.
|Player||Years in NFL|
|J.J. Wilcox||1 year|
|Jakar Hamilton||1 year|
|Matt Johnson||2 years|
|Jeff Heath||1 year|
This competition has no clear-cut favorite. None of these players have played more than two seasons in the league. Due to his high draft position in 2013 and the promise he showed during his rookie season, Wilcox will ultimately win the job.
Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson has told ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins that Wilcox is the favorite at this time.
"Right now Wilcox is in the driver's seat," Henderson told Watkins. "He has the first opportunity to solidify [the spot] and we are hopeful that he does. But we know behind him we have some hungry guys."
In the same article, Watkins stated that Dallas views rookie Dixon as more of a special teams player, at least for now. That leaves only Johnson, Hamilton and Heath to challenge Wilcox for a job he has the inside track on.
It's also worth noting that the seventh-round selection was the only safety Dallas took in the draft. The team passed on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor in the first round, showing faith in its current safety situation.
Due to injuries, Johnson has never played in a regular-season game in his NFL career. Hamilton spent all of his rookie season last year as a backup to either Heath or Wilcox. Heath did take the starting job away from Wilcox last season, but he didn't do a ton to impress the coaching staff after doing so.
The Georgia Southern product was not taken in the third round to simply provide depth to the Dallas secondary. Like fellow 2013 third-round pick Terrance Williams, Wilcox was selected with the hope that he'd start alongside Church.
In 13 games last season, Wilcox tallied 38 tackles and one pass defended. His numbers weren't ideal but he showed signs of developing into a serviceable NFL starter. The reason Wilcox lost his starting position to Heath was due to a knee injury, not lack of effectiveness.
Despite playing strong safety for only two seasons over his college and pro career, Wilcox has the tools to not only win but keep the starting role. He is fast and his time as a wide receiver helps when he finds himself in man coverage.
"I love J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys needed a safety. He'll compete for the starting job, and ultimately he is a starting safety," said NFL Network's Mike Mayock back in 2013 when Dallas drafted Wilcox.
Wilcox might be one of the lesser experienced safeties gunning for this job, but he has shown the most potential. Expect the Cowboys to give him another shot starting next to Church in 2014.