J.J. Wilcox won’t call himself the favorite to win the free safety job. Neither will defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

But all signs point to Wilcox lining up alongside Barry Church in the Cowboys’ secondary in the season opener against San Francisco. He’s working exclusively with the first team and has the most potential to become a difference-maker in the secondary.

“I’m not the favorite, but I definitely think I might be in the driver’s seat,” Wilcox said. “I still have a long way to go; we still have a long way to go before the first game, so I have to prove myself. May the best man win.”

That’s the party line this early in camp with several other position battles taking place on both sides of the ball. Nobody is going to declare a winner, and Wilcox has competition behind him.

Jeff Heath started nine games last season, although he looked overmatched much of the time. Matt Johnson, who is sidelined once again with a hamstring injury, is another candidate if he gets healthy. Others include Jakar Hamilton and rookie Ahmad Dixon.

Out of that group, though, Wilcox has the most upside.

“There is no ceiling with him,” Church said. “He’s physical. He’s explosive. He can make all the tackles, and he also can go get the ball. I’m glad to have him on the opposite side of me.”

Wilcox, a 2013 third-round pick out of Georgia Southern, flashed his potential when he played last season. Marinelli still gushes over an open-field tackle Wilcox made on a 5-yard run by Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy on the third play in Week 7.