The Cowboys haven’t officially announced any changes to the depth chart and probably won’t until training camp. If the rumors that are circulating prove true, then Byron Jones will be moving to free safety next to Barry Church full time.
This leaves J.J. Wilcox, a free agent after the 2016 season scheduled to earn $1.6 million this year, at a disadvantage. He’s now fighting for a starting spot.
Wilcox remains unruffled by this. He has said he’s not worried about the business of the NFL, and admits he must get better to compete for the starting job. But does Wilcox have a fighting chance to even earn consideration for the starting position at Free Safety?
There’s no question Wilcox is definitely fighting an uphill battle. For starters, he’s still somewhat “new” to the safety position. As a third round pick in 2013, J.J. Wilcox came from Georgia Southern University where his first position was running back. His performance so far shows that playing safety is something that does not come naturally to him.
Wilcox repeatedly takes bad angles at ball carriers or fails to make a play on a ball in the air. Even when given the rare chance to make a play, he misses.
More so, he’d have to beat out one of the most promising young players on the defense, Byron Jones. Jones played as an outside corner, in the slot and free safety in 2015. The kid can do it all, but safety is where he seems most comfortable.
Wilcox only had one interception and three pass deflections last season. Jones, on the other hand, had nine pass deflections, but no interceptions in his rookie year with the Cowboys. He also made 47 tackles to Wilcox’s 37 tackles.
To be fair, Jones played more snaps than Wilcox. In fact, he played the second most snaps on the defense, second to Brandon Carr. This could have something to do with why he had more impressive stats than Jones in 2015.
Wilcox also may not be getting a fair shake. Although he has blown a lot of pivotal plays, he’s made just as many.
And although he may be fairly new to the position, the 2015 season brought him another year of experience, and hopefully, improved play for the 2016 season.
It’s no secret that the Cowboys secondary is probably one of the weaker areas of the team and one of the reasons why Jones was so valuable to the defense last season. Because Jones is so integral to the defense and shows so much promise, Jones is the better option of the two. Therefore, Wilcox is on the roster bubble.
With Jones moving to safety full time, Wilcox’s days in the starting lineup could be over. All is not lost, though, as Wilcox is still a good backup option. Whether or not he and the Cowboys can negotiate a contract price will be the question facing Wilcox next offseason.