Cowboys cornerback Barry Church was the defensive star of Tuesday’s practice, with a highlight moment that included an interception return for a touchdown of a Tony Romo pass intended for John Phillips.
Church has been getting extra snaps in camp with Gerald Sensabaugh (arthroscopic knee surgery) and Brodney Pool (failed conditioning test) out of action. His performance the first two days has turned the head of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
“I’ve been impressed with him,” Ryan said of Church. “He had the nice interception today. I’ve always thought he was one of our best players on defense. And right now he’s got a hell of a chance to prove it. He’s taken advantage of these last two days.”
Ryan said Church (6-2, 218), a third-year player from Toledo, must show improvement in his deep coverage skills and his durability to become a contender to start. Ryan did not rule out the possibility, especially with Pool having struggled in OTAs.
“He’s a sharp guy mentally, but he’s got to be able to execute in the deep part of the field,” Ryan said.
Because of the shortage of safeties, Ryan also used cornerback Mario Butler with the second unit on several occasions Tuesday. But the move is only in the experimental stage.
“Right now, we’re taking a look to see if he has a future there,” Ryan said. “We’re a couple of safeties down. He’s a smart kid. He plays corner. We want to see if he can add to his flexibility and value to our defense.”
In a similar vein, Ryan said defensive tackle Sean Lissimore projects as someone who could play a bigger defensive role in 2012 because of his position flexibility.
“I think Sean is going to play a number of snaps, whether he’s a starter or a backup,” Ryan said. “He’s going to play as many snaps as the starters are. He’s got great position flexibility, which adds to his reps. He’s going to be a big part of this defense.”
_ Jimmy Burch