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Barry Church led the Dallas Cowboys defense with 139 tackles in 2013

Dallas Cowboys Position Reviews: Safeties

Safety Barry Church quietly led the Cowboys in tackles in 2013

By Matthew Postins

PostinsPostcards.com

Cowboys 2013 Position Review: Safety

RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down every position group for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s safety.

Safeties: Barry Church (starter), J.J. Wilcox (starter), Jeff Heath (backup), Danny McCray (backup).

Other notable players: Matt Johnson (spent entire season on IR), Will Allen (released after first month of the season).

In 2013: Barry Church quietly had a nice season, leading the Cowboys in tackles with 137 and forcing three fumbles. He only picked off one pass, but the Cowboys are paying Church to help in run support and that’s what they’re getting. Church was healthy all season, unlike 2012. Meanwhile, at strong safety there was some drama. Will Allen started the season, and the veteran safety was the one member of the secondary who had experience and had understanding of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Cover 2 system. A month into the season the Cowboys cut Allen for a special teams gaffe. J.J. Wilcox, one of the Cowboys’ third-round picks, stepped in. Wilcox earned a reputation as a hard hitter in training camp and he certainly kept on hitting once he entered the starting lineup, but he had some issues in coverage. After Wilcox was hurt, he lost the starting job to another rookie, Jeff Heath, an undrafted free agent. Like Wilcox, Heath was inconsistent, showing flashes of talent mixed with mistakes. It’s about what you would expect from a rookie starter who played Division II football last year. Heath had his first interception in Week 16 and it helped the Cowboys beat the Redskins. McCray worked almost exclusively on special teams and didn’t contribute much to the pass coverage unit.

Looking ahead: Like the cornerbacks, expect most of these guys to be back in 2014. The only one not under contract is McCray, and the Cowboys are likely to let him go. Church is steady, so one of the real competitions to watch this offseason is the progress of Wilcox and Heath and how that translates to who starts in 2014. Right now, Heath might be the better option, but it’s a long way to the season opener. The Cowboys could consider bringing in a veteran safety as a placeholder, as they did with Allen last season.

Next up: Special teams.

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