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Safety Jayron Kearse has grabbed leadership role in Cowboys secondary

The Dallas Cowboys have found rare success on the backend of their secondary with free agent signee Jayron Kearse taking on a leadership role at safety.

DALLAS — Joe Whitt Jr. isn't always the easiest person to get along with.

The Dallas Cowboys secondary coach and passing game coordinator can be standoffish and cantankerous at times, but safety Jayron Kearse didn't let Whitt's demeanor deter him from addressing an issue on film during training camp in Oxnard, Calif. this summer.

"That was just really going through something on the film, and I just approached it like I was talking to a grown man, and he understood that," Kearse said. "It wasn't anything disrespectful throughout the conversation. I addressed him as a grown man and he addressed me as a grown man — just being real with him, and he was real with me."

Kearse's willingness to approach Whitt and converse like "two grown men" with common goals demonstrated the type of leader that the safety has become for the Cowboys. "For him to talk straight with me and to come at me in a very direct manner, I really respected that," said Whitt.

The Cowboys signed Kearse to a one-year contract worth $1.1 million. Dallas didn't expect the 27-year-old to take on a leadership role, but Kearse has created one in the secondary.

"I think he’s come in here and his role wasn’t necessarily to be a leader, but his play, his demeanor, his intelligence have put him in that role of a leader," Whitt said. "And he’s done a very nice job of it, especially on the field. He’s a very smart man that plays with a level of aggression that makes other players want to follow him so I’ve been very pleased with him."

Kearse has seen an increase in playing time with starting safety Donovan Wilson sidelined with a groin injury. The former Minnesota Vikings 2016 seventh-round pick from Clemson has generated 39 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, and two pass breakups through six games, five of which he has started.

What has led to the Cowboys giving Kearse extended playing time is his versatility.

Said Whitt: "He goes in there as a linebacker. He erases tight ends. He plays in the middle of the field. He blitzes. I mean, [the opponent’s offense] turns the protection to him and not to the linebackers. So, he just gives us such versatility."

One of the most important aspects that Kearse is bringing to the Cowboys' backend is swagger, which he believes is momentous for every football player.

"I think every football player should have some swag to them," said Kearse. "It may be who I watched growing up, when I was a fan of football, that just, I take swagger very serious whether it’s the look on the field or playing style. I take it very serious. I think that adds a lot to a player’s game."

The Cowboys have plenty of swagger coming out of the bye with a 5-1 record. Dallas takes on Kearse's old team, Minnesota, on Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Do you think the secondary can continue to play at a high level for the Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.