Dallas Cowboys

Safety J.J. Wilcox ready for competition, hoping to find role with Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys free safety J.J. Wilcox (27) will compete for a job during training camp despite starting a combined 29 games the past two seasons.
Dallas Cowboys free safety J.J. Wilcox (27) will compete for a job during training camp despite starting a combined 29 games the past two seasons. Star-Telegram

J.J. Wilcox has started 29 of 32 games the past two seasons combined. But with Byron Jones slated to become a full-time safety, Wilcox will go to training camp battling for a role on the Cowboys.

Jones, a first-round pick last season, will enter training camp as the favorite to win the starting free safety job. The Cowboys would list Barry Church, who started all but one game the past three seasons, as the starting strong safety on a depth chart today.

The Cowboys also re-signed backup safety Jeff Heath in the offseason.

“It’s competition,” Wilcox said. “It’s the way the business goes. It’s the way of the world. You have to go out there and put your best foot down every time you step on the field and every time they turn the camera on. So, like I said, there’s competition all over the field -- the strong safety spot, free safety spot still. You never know what might happen because of OTAs and camp. So I’ll just be ready when my number is called, and I’m going to go out there and do the best I can.”

Wilcox started the first six games at free safety last season before Jones replaced him. With Jones starting four games at cornerback for an injured Morris Claiborne, Wilcox still played 821 snaps, or 77.7 percent of the defensive plays. Jones played 870 snaps while alternating positions, and Church played 862 snaps.

Wilcox finished seventh on the team with 69 tackles last season, while making one interception and breaking up four passes.

“I’ve got to get better,” Wilcox said. “Like I said, I’m still growing at the position. This is my fifth year playing it. I’ve been playing offense all of my life. So I’m still growing, and I think I have a lot of upside. I just have to keep learning the game, study hard on the film, just be more consistent in open-field tackling and being the best safety that I can be.”

Wilcox played running back until his senior season at Georgia Southern when he switched to safety. The Cowboys made him a third-round pick in 2013.

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