Coming into the 2016 season, Safety J.J. Wilcox has been known as a one-trick pony. He could hit someone so hard that it would make their mother cry, but that’s about all most Dallas Cowboys fans have come to expect.
He wasn’t very good in coverage, and he always seemed to take the wrong angle on what would end up being a huge play for the opposing team.
Many wondered if Wilcox would make the team at all at the start of the 2016 training camp. Byron Jones was moving to free safety full time, Barry Church had the strong safety position locked up, Jeff Heath wasn’t going anywhere, and the team drafted Kavon Frazier in the 2016 draft.
What many seem to have forgotten is the fact Wilcox hasn’t played the safety position very long, and when he first started played the position it was at tiny Georgia Southern College.
Wilcox played wide receiver and running back before finally settling down at the safety position his senior year. None of that matters when it comes to pleasing people of the football world; they want to see results fast, and the results better be positive or everyone is ready to move on to the next.
Wilcox made the team and it came as a surprise to some, however, this wasn’t a surprise to people who were within the organization. Coaches and the front office saw changes in Wilcox during the offseason, and with that change the team made sure to do everything they could to help Wilcox turn into the player they thought he could be when they drafted him. As the season progressed you could see the difference in his play and his stats showed it as well.
J.J. Wilcox’s Numbers jumped to six pass break-ups and 35 solo tackles this year in 12 games (four starts), up from three pass break-ups and 37 solo tackles in 16 games in 2015 (13 starts).
I asked a scout in the league what he thought was the biggest change in Wilcox’s play:
“I think he has vastly improved this season. Two main reasons are 1) he is now in his 4th season playing safety (1 college, 3 pro), and on defense for that matter, and he is becoming much more comfortable in that role. 2) They simplified some of the responsibilities of the DBs this year and it allows them to play faster without having to think.”
What you’re seeing now is a player who is just starting to break through the surface of his potential.
Wilcox is learning the game, learning the position, and gaining more and more confidence. When J.J. Wilcox name comes up now, it’s no longer just about a big hit, or taking a bad angle. People talk about how well he’s playing overall.