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Byron Jones' skill set has put J.J. Wilcox on bench

In half a season with the Cowboys, Byron Jones has shown he has superior coverage skills and is a solid tackler. AP Photo/Brandon Wade

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox lost his job last week. The angle he took on Jordan Matthews’ game-winning catch-and-run Sunday is among the reasons why.

After Byron Jones stumbled on the play, Wilcox took a poor angle that didn’t put him in position to make the tackle.

“He’s done some good things and he did some good things in the game last night,” coach Jason Garrett said. “J.J. and others needed to make a tackle after the catch.

“What’s critical there is that you’re in overtime, and if you get a stop there and, somehow, hold them to a field goal, then we get a chance, but we didn’t get it done."

While Wilcox is a punishing hitter, the safety is the last line of defense. He needs to be a player who makes the safe play that ensures the defense lives to play another day.

In half a season, Jones has shown he has superior coverage skills and he’s a solid tackler.

The reality is the Cowboys probably wouldn’t have drafted Wilcox if current college and pro scouting director Will McClay was running the 2013 draft.

That’s because McClay prefers for the Cowboys to draft productive players from Power 5 conferences. Wilcox spent one season playing safety at Georgia Southern, and he’s spent three seasons with the Cowboys learning the nuances of the position.

Jones, who played cornerback and safety in college, has made a smooth transition and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has called him one of the best rookies he’s ever had.

He’s playing the slot when the Cowboys use their nickel defense, and he’s playing Wilcox’s safety spot in the Cowboys’ base defense.

“We wanted to make the safety position competitive,” said Garrett, “and get some other guys out there and we’ll keep it competitive. The best guy is going to play the most."