September 19, 2013

Rookie J.J. Wilcox might be close to replacing Will Allen at strong safety

J.J. Wilcox worked with the first team in practice.

Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox vows to be ready if the Dallas Cowboys are ready for him to play a bigger role. Wilcox has played only six snaps on defense this season, all in the New York Giants game, but he was taking first-team snaps in practice Thursday.

“Well, you’re only one snap away when you’re a backup,” Wilcox said. “With that being said, I think I am [ready to play more]. I’m going to continue to keep preaching it: Be ready when my number’s called. It’s a great team. I’m going in a great direction, so I just want to be ready.”

Will Allen, a 10-year veteran, signed a one-year contract during the off-season to man the position until the Cowboys deemed Wilcox ready. Allen has made 35 career starts but only 11 have come in the past seven years. He has allowed six catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns this season, according to STATS Inc., and has 11 tackles, two defensed passes and an interception.

Allen said if it is time for Wilcox to move ahead of him at strong safety, he’s just “got to live with it.”

“I think you should ask the head coach and the defensive coordinator those questions,” Allen said. “I really don’t want to speak on it. The only thing I can say is that I’m here, on the team, and just thankful for that.”

Wilcox, who missed 11 days during training camp to be with his dying mother, led the team in tackles in preseason and had an interception and two pass breakups.

Spencer, Dez return

Defensive end Anthony Spencer was on the practice field and did practice on a limited basis. It was Spencer’s third practice since left knee surgery July 25. He missed Wednesday’s practice after playing 34 snaps against the Chiefs on Sunday in his first action of the season.

Receiver Dez Bryant (back spasms) also was limited Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (neck) were limited again. Linebacker Ernie Sims (groin) did not practice. Quarterback Tony Romo (ribs) went through a full practice.

Dunbar seeks trust

Running back Lance Dunbar isn’t walking around with a football tucked high and tight this week, but he is working on his ball security.

Dunbar has lost fumbles on two of his past three touches, including the preseason, leaving him in position to earn back the coaches’ trust.

“He just needs to understand the importance of ball security, and it’s certainly something we’ve preached as much as anything here,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Sometimes when a young player goes into a game, he doesn’t really fully understand how good the opponents are at getting the ball away. He’s found that out.

“He’s a good football player. We like him a lot. He goes about it the right way. We’ll give him more chances, but again he has to continue to earn that trust to give him those opportunities.”

Dunbar lost a fumble on a 43-yard reception in the preseason game at Arizona, spraining his foot in the process. He missed the season opener against the Giants but returned to play only three offensive snaps against the Chiefs. He might have played more if not for a fumble after a 4-yard reception from Tony Romo that led to a Chiefs field goal.

“It cost us in the game and it hurt me,” Dunbar said. “But I’m past it now, you know. I’ve been working on ball security all week.

“...I’m not thinking about the fumble. I’m just thinking about me holding onto the ball, tucking it the whole time. My mind’s focused on the ball at all times.”

Dunbar has 29 total touches on offense during the regular season, and he has two fumbles, one lost.

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