Young safeties better than Mike Hamlin?

IRVING, Texas -- One surprise before the Cowboys-Texans game on Sunday was safety Mike Hamlin becoming inactive for the first time this season.

Two things played a role in this decision.

When the Cowboys placed fullback Deon Anderson on waived/injured on Friday it allowed them to move Scott Chandler from the practice squad to the active roster. Chandler is a blocking tight end who has done a nice job on his assignments in the special teams portions of practice. The Cowboys wanted Chandler to play in the game, which he did.

Rookie safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray played well on special teams the first two weeks and the Cowboys wanted to see Church more in certain defensive packages.

So Hamlin got a seat.

Church was inserted at the start of the fourth quarter on a goal-line package and along with Keith Brooking made a tackle of Arian Foster, stopping him for no gain from the 1. The drive ended with Brooking getting a sack on Matt Schaub, a play coach Wade Phillips said sealed the game. Houston had to settle for a 30-yard field goal, cutting the Cowboys lead to 17-6.

Church finished with one tackle on defense and an assist on special teams.

McCray had one interception and one special teams tackle.

Phillips won't say the rookie safeties are better overall than Hamlin, who was a fifth-round pick last year and expected to compete for a starting free safety job with Alan Ball.

But it's clear the Cowboys value the rookie safeties a lot more.

"Each of them have different strengths and I think Church really played well on special teams the week before," Phillips said. "We thought he could help us on goal line. McCray has been playing well."