It's a big year for Matt Johnson

Dallas Cowboys safety Matt Johnson didn't play a down in 2012.

Johnson, a fourth-round pick, missed the rookie minicamp because he was still in school, and when he finally arrived at Valley Ranch he dealt with hamstring injuries.

The Cowboys didn't place Johnson on injured reserve with the hope he would return.

As he rehabbed his hamstring injury, he hurt his back.

If it wasn't one thing, it was another. Now, Johnson is healthy and the competition is getting thick at the safety position.

Barry Church is one starter, but Will Allen, J.J. Wilcox, Danny McCray and Johnson are all competing for the other spot.

Last season the Cowboys had veteran Brodney Pool to compete with Gerald Sensabaugh for a starting spot, but Pool was cut in training camp and the starting gig went to Church.

"Church, if he can play at the level he’s shown us, we’re going to have a really outstanding safety," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "I think we will benefit a lot from a scheme that emphasizes what these guys do – big, physical guys who like to hit. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves."

Johnson needs to be in this mix. The Cowboys invested a roster spot for him last season that went unused. Johnson is one player from last year's draft who has to earn significant snaps in 2013.