- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys cut safety Brodney Pool on Monday, which by all accounts means that Barry Church beat him out for the job by a mile and a half before training camp really even got going. This means the Cowboys' projected starters at safety to start the season are Church and Gerald Sensabaugh. Good for Church, and good for the Cowboys if he's a player who's really ready to take a step forward this year.
But if the reason for the move is that Church is the best of a bad bunch and Pool showed nothing after being signed, ostensibly, to replace Abram Elam, then questions linger for the Cowboys at a position that's more critical than I think they're letting on. Safeties matter in a 3-4 defense, be it in run support or as a help over the top for the cornerbacks. The Cowboys' offseason plan seemed to be based on getting shutdown cornerbacks in the hope that improvements at that position would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense -- covering potential weaknesses at safety and on the defensive line, possibly helping out the pass rush. It's an interesting theory, but it puts a great deal of pressure on Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne to perform as shutdown corners.
Maybe Church will continue to improve rapidly, outperform his undrafted pedigree and become an asset to the Cowboys on the back end. I'm not saying he can't or won't. I'm just throwing this out there as another example of an area of 2011 weakness the Cowboys didn't effectively address in their 2012 offseason. If they have the answer internally -- be it Church or fourth-round draft pick Matt Johnson -- then good for them. But if they don't, their defense may not be as improved as I think most fans are expecting it to be this year.