Barry Church falls into an interesting category for the Cowboys.
A player who is better than they thought.
“He kind of delivers over and over,” coach Jason Garrett said of the former undrafted player, who joined the Cowboys in 2010 and now is their starting free safety opposite veteran strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
Better than they thought? That’s no back-handed compliment in the eyes of Church, whose ascension to the job became official Monday morning when the Cowboys announced the release of Brodney Pool, signed in free agency to do the job.
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“Just knowing that the head coach has my back, knowing that he knows I’m developing as a player, it gives me all the confidence in the world,” Church said. “I’m just hoping I can be inserted into this starting lineup and take this defense to new heights.”
Church spent the opening week of training camp at seemingly new heights.
He broke up passes. He made an interception. He covered. He took charge of the defense. He, Dez Bryant and Sean Lee were the standouts of the week.
For Church, it came at the right time – in the absence of the eight-year veteran Pool, who failed the pre-camp conditioning test and missed the first three practices.
“He gets better and better every time I see him, so I want to see how far he can go,” Sensabaugh said of Church.
For the Cowboys, the main question on Church was whether he could cover in the back half of the field. They knew he could play the run and be physical. But coverage in the open field is a different story.
“They have this expression, ‘He’s a box safety,’ a guy who plays down near the line of scrimmage – good against the run, but you don’t want him in space,” Garrett said. “That was his reputation coming in, At every turn he as has grown. He has grown to be a better space player in teams, a better space player on defense, and I think he has grown on the back end as well. It will never be his strong suit, but he has shown us he can do that.”
Church has spent his short career showing the Cowboys “he can do that.”
He was a special teams player as a rookie. He moved into some of the regular defense last year, even playing emergency linebacker for a game until a shoulder injury cut his season three games short.
“Barry Church is one of those guys that a lot of teams have that you bring him in as an undrafted free agent and you think, `Boy, he’s a little better than we thought he was.’ ” Garrett said. “He makes an impact, he is going to be a special teams player, and then you say, ‘He probably can’t do a lot on defense.’
“Hey, we put him in there, and he did a nice job. Then you give him the next thing, and he kind of delivers over and over.”
Church came back healthy in time for the offseason OTAs and minicamps. The work gave him a boost going into training camp, Garrett said.
“I think he is in the best shape of his life coming off the injury from last year,” Garrett said. “His body had changed a bit, and he’s a more mature guy. He’s seen NFL training camp before and he’s seen NFL offenses before and he understands the scheme a little more. He’s really taken advantage of the opportunity he’s had so far.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407