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August 03, 2012

Jason Garrett says safety Barry Church one of those players 'a little better than we thought he was'

Barry Church looks like a player who is better than the Cowboys thought he was.

That’s how coach Jason Garrett described the third-year safety on Friday at training camp in Oxnard.

“Barry Church is one of those guys that a lot of teams have that you bring him in as an undrafted free agent and you think, `Boy, he’s a little better than we thought he was.’ ” Garrett said. “He makes an impact, he is going to be a special teams player, and then you say, ‘He probably can’t do a lot on defense.’

“Hey, we put him in there, and he did a nice job. Then you give him the next thing, and he kind of delivers over and over.”

Church, undrafted out of Toledo in 2010, has been getting first-team reps at safety while Gerald Sensabaugh, Brodney Pool and Matt Johnson are out. He has come back strong from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last half of last season.

“I think he is in the best shape of his life coming off the injury from last year,” Garrett said. “His body had changed a bit, and he’s a more mature guy. He’s seen NFL training camp before and he’s seen NFL offenses before and he understands the scheme a little more. He’s really taken advantage of the opportunity he’s had so far.”

Church said earlier in the week he needs to convince the Cowboys he can play in deep coverage. Garrett said he has indeed shown improvement there.

 “They have this expression, ‘He’s a box safety,’ a guy who plays down near the line of scrimmage – good against the run, but you don’t want him in space. That was his reputation coming in, At every turn he as has grown. He has grown to be a better space player in teams, a better space player on defense, and I think he has grown on the back end as well. It will never be his strong suit, but he has shown us he can do that. Three days in, and we don’t want to over evaluate, but we like what we’ve seen.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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