Best minicamp battle: Brodney Pool vs. Barry Church

IRVING, Texas – Several of the battles for Cowboys starting jobs have been delayed due to injuries. Inside linebacker Dan Connor (shoulder), guard/center Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip) and defensive end Sean Lissemore (rib cartilage) have been sidelined by injuries this offseason but should fight for the right to start during training camp.

That leaves strong safety – Barry Church vs. Brodney Pool -- as the best starting battle in Cowboys’ minicamp.

“I think that’s going to be a hell of a competition,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.

The Cowboys signed Pool to a one-year, $1.1 million deal in free agency to ensure they would have a veteran option to start next to Gerald Sensabaugh. Pool, a seven-year veteran, had his two most productive seasons playing for Ryan in Cleveland in 2009 and 2010.

Pool has been splitting first-team reps with Church, a third-year player who graded well playing a niche role for the Dallas defense last year.

“That’s how I would want it,” said Pool, whose playmaking ability made him attractive to the Cowboys despite his limitations in coverage. “I wouldn’t want to be given anything. There’s no competition in that. Competition brings out the best.”

Church, who had shoulder surgery late last season, has played primarily on special teams and as a nickel and dime linebacker. He went undrafted out of Toledo because of concerns about his speed, so he has to prove that he can cover enough ground to be counted on as a starter.

“Barry Church has been one of those guys who ever since we signed him really takes advantage of the opportunities he’s been given,” head coach Jason Garrett said.

Now Church is being given an opportunity to claim a much bigger role.