The New Safety Valve?

Could this little known safety out of Ball State solidify the Cowboys secondary this year?

Before the Cowboys head to California for training camp, or even to Valley Ranch for mini-camps, three of the four starting spots in the secondary are pretty well locked up.

Free agent Anthony Henry and Terence Newman will start at the cornerback spots, and Roy Williams will start at safety for years to come.

But when longtime free safety Darren Woodson spent the 2004 season on injured reserve (and subsequently retired) because of a back injury, Williams was forced to move from his strong safety to free safety, making him far less effective than he was able to creep toward the line of scrimmage and cause mayhem.

In an effort to allow Williams to migrate back to his natural position, the Cowboys spent the first of their two sixth-round picks (No. 208 overall) on Ball State free safety Justin Beriault (6-2.5, 204, 4.61).

Beriault is a productive player, having started all four years at Ball State, piling up 270 tackles in his last two seasons. He also is effective on safety blitzes, recording six quarterback sacks in his junior year.

Beriault might not rock a ball carrier like Roy Williams will, but he makes a lot of tackles. At the same time, he's not a "ballhawk" type who can sit back and make lots of interceptions, but his speed and height allow him to get to the ball and make plays in coverage.

In addition, he's viewed as a very strong special teams player.

The Cowboys have taken numerous steps to improve their front seven, having signed defensive tackle Jason Ferguson and drafting linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Kevin Burnett, as well as defensive ends Marcus Spears and Chris Canty.

If those players perform as hoped, the secondary will improve immediately, simply because of opposing quarterbacks being forced into throwing quick (and sometimes errant) passes.

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