Jerry Jones: Safety spots 'unproven'

IRVING, Texas -- As much as the Dallas Cowboys call their defensive line one of the team’s strengths, the safety position is quite a bit different, according to owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

“Unproven would be the overall assessment,” Jones said.

Barry Church started the first three games last year before suffering a torn Achilles. While his recovery has gone well and he is ready to get on the field, he is still returning from a major injury.

Matt Johnson did not play as a rookie because of a series of hamstring injuries that eventually led him to injured reserve. The Cowboys apparently loved what they saw in the limited amount of practice he had last year.

Veteran Will Allen signed a one-year deal that guarantees him $620,000. He started seven games for the Pittsburgh Steelers but has started 16 games just once (in Tampa Bay for new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin).

Danny McCray started 10 games last year and finished second on the team in tackles, but his playing time was cut dramatically late in the season. The Cowboys seem to believe he is a special-teams star, but a spot player on defense.

They drafted J.J. Wilcox in the fourth round from Georgia Southern, but he played safety just one season. They also added Jakar Hamilton as an undrafted free agent and like his athleticism.

"Unproven" is a good way to evaluate the group, but Jones is banking on Kiffin to raise the level of play.

“I think we will benefit from a scheme that emphasizes what these guys are: big, physical guys that like to hit,” Jones said. “With (John) Lynch in Monte’s background, you say, ‘Duh, that’s the picture you see,’ but these guys have all the same thing that comes up: tough.”