Ten weeks and nine games into the 2016 regular season, the Dallas Cowboys sit at 8-1. Raise your hand if you thought that would be the case as Cliff Avril dragged Tony Romo down from behind in August…
Now put your hand down, liar.
Anyway, the Cowboys success has brought out a lot of argument over who deserves the credit. Is it the offensive line which is clearly, far and away the best unit in the entire NFL and continues to dominate the opponent’s front seven each week? Or is it the 4th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Ezekiel Elliott, who leads the league in rushing and will break the Cowboys rookie rushing record sooner than later?
Sure, it could be one of those two options, but of course they have been great. Regardless of whether Romo and Dez were healthy or not, we knew that the O-line and Zeke would be on the top of their games.
This is why the title of both biggest surprise, and team MVP, have been given to quarterback Dak Prescott by many fans and media members alike. And while it is hard to argue that his performance has been surprising, I actually think one veteran’s play has been downright shocking.
That player is safety JJ Wilcox.
The same JJ Wilcox who many speculated wouldn’t even have a spot on this roster after the Cowboys drafted Kavon Frazier and moved Byron Jones to safety full time. The same JJ Wilcox who has been burned, embarrassed, and ran-by countless times during his time in Dallas. The same JJ Wilcox who took notoriously awful angles at times.
Forget about all of that. JJ Wilcox is balling.
After making the final roster, Wilcox was still only expected to play in certain defensive packages, and would serve as a backup to Barry Church and Byron Jones. But, as injuries to Church, Morris Claiborne, and Orlando Scandrick have continued to decimate the Cowboys secondary, Wilcox’s snap count has continued to increase.
Last Sunday, Wilcox played his best professional game yet. Finishing with 12 tackles and 1 pass defensed, Wilcox delivered huge hits all over the field which made it impossible to not notice him. Surprisingly, Wilcox even earned the highest grade of any Cowboys defensive player during the game, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Both Wilcox and normal starter Barry Church are in contract years. Going into the season, it seemed like a no-brainer that this would be the end of Wilcox’s road in Dallas, even if he is the younger option. Now, I am not so sure.
Sure there are still questions about Wilcox’s coverage skills, but if he continues to play downhill and make sure tackles the way he did on Sunday, he is going to make it really hard for the Cowboys to potentially let him walk away.
Moving forward, I still believe Church is the better option, especially during this season. But all of a sudden the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches in their secondary (when healthy). Morris Claiborne has been the best cornerback on the entire roster, Byron Jones continues to impress each week, Barry Church is the leader of the back-end, Brandon Carr is playing some of his best football, and rookie corner Anthony Brown has been even better than advertised as just a 6th round pick.
Oh, and I didn’t even mention Orlando Scandrick.
Hopefully, JJ Wilcox can continue his improved play this season, as he is much needed at safety until Barry Church can return.