Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Stephen Jones defends the safety position

By Calvin Watkins

The Dallas Cowboys bypassed selecting a safety in the NFL draft until the seventh round when they took Baylor's Ahmad Dixon.

Yet, there was some criticism of why the Cowboys didn't draft a safety in the early rounds.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones defended the team's current safeties in a Tuesday conference call with season-ticket holders.

"We feel a little bit better than our safeties than our critics in the media," Jones said.

The Cowboys currently have Barry Church, the leading tackler, as the starting strong safety.

At free safety, the Cowboys have a log jam with J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson competing at the position.

Wilcox took over as starter last season for Will Allen, who was eventually released in October. But Wilcox suffered a knee injury against the Philadelphia Eagles and missed the next three games. The Cowboys used Heath over Wilcox while he was out, and he struggled in pass coverage. But Wilcox also had a family tragedy when his mother passed away during the season.

Johnson, a 2012 fourth-round pick, hasn't played in two seasons because of injuries. But the Cowboys like his ability to make plays. One of the last plays he made in the limited practice times he's had was a pick-six in training camp.

"I’d start with J.J. Wilcox," Jones said. "He was really having a tremendous training camp and he had a real tragedy in his life when he lost his mother. We were naming him the starter that day, and then he had to leave camp, rightfully so, to be with his family. We think J.J., working with him in the offseason, has it all back together again and we think he’s going to seize the opportunity."

With Johnson, Jones understands there are concerns regarding him considering he's dealt with hamstring and back injuries without playing in a regular-season game.

"Matt Johnson has real injuries, but they’re more unfortunate than chronic," Jones said. "This is probably the year for him to really have it all come together."