- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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Signing Pool was designed to create competition at the position and during offseason workouts. Church was a reserve. But after Pool failed his conditioning test to start training camp, Church received the majority of the first-team snaps.
"Just for them to release him kinda shows me they have a little confidence in me and a little confidence in my game," Church said Monday. "So I'm just going to go out there and keep trying to produce at a high level and hopefully I'll be a starter Sept. 5."
Church was surprised the team signed Pool because he figured younger players would compete for the job. But Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was familiar with Pool, having coached him in Cleveland. The Cowboys used veteran safeties, Abram Elam and Ken Hamlin, to pair with Gerald Sensabaugh in the past.
In 2010, the Cowboys moved Alan Ball to the safety spot but it didn't work out well.
"It was a little surprising to me at the beginning," Church said. "But I just knew they wanted competition at that safety (position) to bring out the best in both of us and that’s what it did. I felt it brought out the best in my game and here I am now taking the first-team reps and hopefully I can continue at that."
To improve his game, Church worked with tight end Jason Witten and Sensabaugh. Church wanted to improve his pass coverage skills. He was good as an in-the-box safety, but with more teams passing, Church needed to work on covering tight ends and running backs.
Church worked on getting his hands placed the right way on receivers and recognizing routes.
"It's been great learning from Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh in the offseason," Church said. "That’s who I worked with to fine-tune my talents in the offseason, especially in my man coverage skills. (Sensabaugh) helped me out a lot with that. Working on tight end releases and working with Jason Witten one-on-one in the offseason helped me fine-tune my craft and I felt like my tackling was down. In the box, things were pretty good, just the deep part of the field, working with Gerald in the offseason helped me take my game to another level."