2013 Stats: Overall, the pass defense was 30th in the NFL, tied for 30th in touchdowns allowed and 17th in interceptions. Barry Church (135 tackles, 107 solo, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 1 touchdown), Jeff Heath (60 tackles, 47 solo, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 touchdown) and J.J. Wilcox (38 tackles, 22 solo), Will Allen (9 tackles, 5 solo, 1 interception).
Salary: Barry Church ($2.2 million per season, free agent 2017), J.J. Wilcox ($702K per season, free agent 2017), Jakar Hamilton ($504K per season, free agent 2016) and Jeff Heath ($495K per season, free agent 2016).
2013 Year in Review: The safety positions have been a weakness for the Cowboys for some time, especially strong safety. Veteran Will Allen managed to only play in five games (two starts) while third-round draft pick J.J. Wilcox participated in 13 games and made five starts. Undrafted free agent Jeff Heath made the other nine starts at strong safety.
Church locked down the free safety position as he started all 16 games and led the team in tackles. 2012 fourth-round draft pick Matt Johnson was once again plagued by injuries and never played in a game.
2014 season: The Cowboys drafted Ahmad Dixon in the sixth round of the 2014 draft in hopes that he would provide depth at strong safety, but he didn't make even make the 53-man roster.
Pro Football Focus considers Church to be an average starter while Wilcox and Heath are considered below-average starters. Third-string strong safety Jakar Hamilton, who played in three games last season, is suspended for the first four games due to a positive performance-enhancing drug test.
To combat the lack of depth at safety, Dallas signed former 49er C.J. Spillman this past weekend. He led San Francisco with 19 special teams tackles in 2013.
If either one of these two things don't happen, the Cowboys won't be successful:
- Church must remain healthy and start all 16 games (again)
- Wilcox must develop into a viable strong safety
Will this unit remain healthy? Let's hope so, because the reinforcements are not there.
Bold Prediction: Ahmad Dixon makes more starts for the Vikings than Wilcox does for the Cowboys.
Eddie Middlebrook can be reached on Twitter @emiddlebrook.