- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Allen certainly didn’t want to elaborate on his feelings about rookie J.J. Wilcox working in Allen’s spot at safety with the starters during practice.
“Hey, man, I just work here,” Allen said. “That's all I can say.”
Wilcox, a third-round pick who calls Allen a mentor, chose his words very carefully and respectfully. He said he isn’t certain whether he will start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, adding that only the coaches know at this point.
“I have to be ready,” Wilcox said. “There can’t be a slack off at any position. I just have to be ready when my number is called.”
There is no question the Cowboys consider Wilcox a future starter. It’s a matter of whether the future begins this week.
The Cowboys are enamored with Wilcox’s athleticism, instincts and big-hitting ability, but he’s making a major leap from Georgia Southern, a small school where he played receiver and running back until his senior season.
The anticipated competition between Allen and Wilcox -- and injured-reserve resident Matt Johnson, for that matter -- never really developed during training camp. That’s in part because Allen, a backup and special teams player for most of his career, has a solid camp and a significant advantage with his knowledge of Monte Kiffin's scheme from their time together in Tampa Bay. However, Wilcox’s development was also delayed by tragic circumstances, with him leaving camp to spend time with his mother during her final days .
Barry Church, who is entrenched as the starter at one safety spot, said Wilcox is still a work in progress but ready to contribute if necessary or the coaches decide to make a change.
“He’s definitely a physical player and he has a lot of traits to be great out there,” Wilcox said. “He just has to get the defense down, get his angles down. The coaches and I will work with him out there with that. As soon as he gets that down, the sky is the limit for the guy.”
Allen had an interception in the season opener -- his first pick since 2005 -- but has often struggled in coverage during the Cowboys’ first two games. ProFootballFocus.com’s grades rank Allen 55th among safeties who have played a quarter of their team’s defensive snaps this season, which could be considered an explanation for Wilcox’s potential promotion.
“It's just part of the business, man,” Allen said. “You got to take the positives with the negatives. That's all I can do.”
The coaches, meanwhile, can attempt to upgrade the position.