Barry Church, Matt Johnson look like starting safeties

March, 19, 2013
3/19/13
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PHOENIX -- As of today, the Dallas Cowboys' starting safeties are Barry Church, who is coming off a torn Achilles, and Matt Johnson, who didn't play a down his rookie season because of hamstring injuries.

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When the Cowboys released Gerald Sensabaugh, it pushed Church, who had four career starts in his NFL career before suffering the season-ending injury, and Johnson to the forefront.

It's not an ideal situation for the Cowboys and it's a concern as they head into the draft and this free-agency period. The Cowboys don't have enough room under the salary cap to sign a veteran safety, although it's something that could happen down the line, and the draft is an unknown because you're not sure if the player you want will be available.

"We think our two starters probably are on our team," team executive vice president Stephen Jones said Monday. "We may get some insurance there, just like we did with Ernie (Sims), and then of course we’re going to draft. We’ve got some players to draft and college free agents to get, but we do think our two young guys could start for us."

Church beat out veteran Brodney Pool in the early stages of training camp to win one of the safety positions. The team drafted Johnson in the fourth round because of his playmaking ability. Johnson's health was a constant issue from the moment he was signed. When he finally did practice, brief thought it was, he impressed the Cowboys' coaches.

At the end of the season, Johnson said he was healthy enough to practice if the Cowboys' season had extended to the postseason.

The issues for the Cowboys is when and if Church will be ready to fully practice with the team and whether Johnson can remain healthy.

"That’s why we’re going to have to have insurance at the end of the day," Jones said. "But we really liked what we saw and think (Johnson) could be that guy for us. Obviously we think a lot about Church, but he’s coming off injury. It’s not perfect, but other teams have to hang out places too with their cap situations. That’s where we are with it. At some point it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up with a veteran safety, if not one in the draft, as well, somewhere. That doesn’t mean we take one out of need, but if we see one at the right place, right time, and he fits well where it is, you’ve got to look at it."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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