And the most overrated player on the Dallas Cowboys is. . .
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By Jonathan Bales
It’s very difficult to label an NFL player as ‘overrated.’ These individuals are the best in the world at what they do–the CEOs, surgeons, and astronauts of the gridiron. The term ‘overrated,’ though, doesn’t mean “unskilled,” but rather less vital than popular opinion might suggest. I consider Shaun Alexander to be one of the most overrated players of this generation. Does that mean he isn’t immensely talented? Not at all.
So who on the Dallas Cowboys is overrated? If I ask this question to 100 random fans, I am sure to get 99 instantaneous “Roy Williams” answers. But fans have very few expectations for Williams this season. According to the majority of NFL fans, he “sucks” (nevermind the fact that he is, like it or not, one of the more naturally talented wide receivers in the league).
Labeling a player as ‘overrated’ requires some sort of disagreement with public opinion. Thus, Roy Williams (or Martellus Bennett, for a lot of you) cannot possibly be seen as ‘overrated’ when not many people really think they are very good to start.
My personal choice for the 2010 Dallas Cowboys M.O.P. is. . .
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
Right off the bat, I anticipate a lot of disagreement with this selection (which is good, since the ‘overrated’ label wouldn’t mean much if lots of people didn’t think he is valuable). To be clear, Sensabaugh was a tremendous free agent signing last season and an immediate upgrade at the strong safety position. He had a solid 2010 season.
A lot of fans (and perhaps even members within the organization) see Sensabaugh as the safety of the future in Dallas. While I definitely think he has the ability to be just that, I disagree with the assessment that he proved it last season.
As I discussed in my 2009 safety grades, Sensabaugh struggled a bit in both pass and run defense. He allowed a 67.4 percent completion rate–too high even for a strong safety. He also yielded five touchdowns (not including the playoffs), despite securing just one interception. Free safety Ken Hamlin wasn’t much of a ball-hawk either, but he only allowed two scores. Unlike Hamlin, Sensabaugh gave up quick scores a little too easily in 2009.
At best, Sensabaugh was mediocre in coverage. As the chart below displays, Sensabaugh had the worst Dallas Cowboys Times Pass Defense Rating.
In the run game, Sensabaugh wasn’t tremendous either. He missed 15.6 percent of tackles he attempted. That is nearly twice the rate at which Ken Hamlin missed tackles (despite Hamlin playing a much more difficult position from which to secure tackles).
This season, I’d love to see Sensabaugh acquire a few more interceptions while decreasing his missed tackle percentage into single digits.
The primary defense for Sensabaugh’s (perhaps) mediocre 2009 play is his thumb injury. Sensabaugh broke his thumb in Week Four at Denver, missing the next game and playing a large portion of the season with a cast on his hand.
While it is unknown how the cast may have affected Sensabaugh’s ability to tackle, it undoubtedly had an effect on his ability to make plays on the football in the passing game. He tallied only one interception on the year despite leading all safeties in pass deflections with five.
This pass deflection total may or may not have been due to the fact that he played strong safety (and thus was targeted more often), but Sensabaugh did appear to at least be in position most of the time.
Sensabaugh signed his tender offer in May of this season, meaning he is currently on a one-year deal worth $1.815 million. Jerry Jones has expressed interest in possibly locking up Sensabaugh to a long-term deal, but it appears the organization will force him to prove himself again this season.
That strategy seems prudent, as the last safety the Cowboys signed to a long-term deal after just one season in Dallas is now a backup in Baltimore.
The Cowboys have shown they are not unwilling to sign a player to a mid-season extension if he displays his value, so let’s hope Sensabaugh’s motivation for a new contract and new-found health have him come out of the gate on fire in 2010.