The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Why Re-Signing Gerald Sensabaugh Was the Right Move for Dallas

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Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys recently re-signed safety Gerald Sensabaugh to a one-year, $2.5 million deal after letting him test the market.  A lot of fans were up in arms about the Cowboys’ lack of involvement in free agency, particularly at the safety position.  Many assumed Sensabaugh would simply be gone in 2011, as the general consensus among both fans and media is that Sensabaugh is an “average at best” player.

I disagree.  I gave Sensabaugh a B+ (87%) overall grade in my 2010 Safety Grades–the fifth-highest grade of any player on the team.  Here is what I had to say about Sensy’s 2010 play:

Pass Defense:  B+

I admit that I was pretty low on Sensabaugh going into the 2010 season.  Throughout the year, though, I noticed Sensabaugh becoming more comfortable in the defense and using his instincts to make plays.

Readers may be shocked to see this grade for a player many view as overrated, but I really believe Sensabaugh deserves it.  Despite being targeted about as often as in ’09, Sensy yielded a lower reception rate and completion percentage, fewer yards, and less yards-per-attempt and per snap.

Sensabaugh also decreased his touchdowns allowed from five to one, while increasing his interception total from one to five.  Many of you know I view interceptions as somewhat fluky and a relatively poor barometer for coverage ability, but Sensabaugh was actually usually in position to make plays in 2010.

Run Defense:  B+

More tackles, fewer missed tackles, and fewer penalties in 2010.  Sensabaugh was also one of the few players who stood out on film during the times of desperation as a player still giving it his all.

The last sentence speaks volumes, as one could argue Sensabaugh and DeMarcus Ware were the only defensive players who didn’t have noticeable lack of effort at some point in 2010.  It showed in his numbers, as Sensabaugh gave up less than seven yards-per-attempt, surrendered just one touchdown, missed just 10.4% of tackles, committed zero penalties, and secured five picks.  He also received the highest Dallas Cowboys Times Pass Defense Rating of any player on the team.

The Cowboys were smart to lock up Sensabaugh for a single season.  It is another opportunity for the safety to try to cash in for a big payday.  While the merits of such play are debatable, there is no doubt players give more effort (particularly in the preseason, during practices and so on) when they are in the final year of their contract.  You saw it from Sensabaugh last season, and you will see it again in 2011.

The primary concern Dallas fans should have is that, as of right now, Sensabaugh is playing free safety instead of his usual strong safety position due to the acquisition of Abram Elam.  Sensabaugh covered fairly well in 2010, but that was when he was closer to the line of scrimmage.  Will he be able to get depth and keep up with players like DeSean Jackson while he’s in, say, Cover 1?

With all of the blitzing Rob Ryan figures to do, you can bet the Cowboys will be in a lot of man coverage this season.  Sensabaugh’s ability to man the deep middle of the field will perhaps be the largest determiner of the defense’s ability to stop opponents.  I have confidence Ryan will be able to dial up adequate pressure on the quarterback, but will Sensabaugh do his part as a free safety?

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12 Responses to Why Re-Signing Gerald Sensabaugh Was the Right Move for Dallas

  1. Greg says:

    I would not mind Sensabaugh as a strong safety because he plays very square and linear. He hits hard and goes downhill at ballcarriers.

    But free safety? He does not turn his hips well, his ball awareness stinks, and his speed (from tracking to covering to closing) is not what you want as the last resort in the secondary to chase down DeSean Jackson.

    Now, I read somewhere that Sensabaugh holds the record for the highest vertical at the Combine at 46 inches. If that is the case, then the track speed does not need to be as prominent. But I have yet to see him fly.

    Yes, I am wayyyy more excited about Elam (who has better stats) than Sensabaugh.

  2. Rick says:

    Free safety and strong safety are basically interchangeable in Ryan’s scheme.

    And all the beat writers say that it’s Sensabaugh at SS and Elam at FS.

  3. john coleman says:

    I am ok with resigning Sensy, but I would have been ok if we hadn’t.

    I am hearing that Sensy is FS, and Elam is SS, too. It does seem to be that the positions are interchangeable in RR’s defense.

    Either way it all comes down to bringing serious heat with the passrush. With no rush our secondary will once again look bad.

    Speaking of secondary- I am really miffed that once again Newman’s high priced donkey is injured. I really would like to see Oscan, McCann, Ball, Thomas, or Rucker step up.

    I will say that overall(especially since we added Elam) that I like the moves and look we have. I expect the D to be much better, just because of different looks. I also think playing against different looks will make the O better.

  4. Vince_Grey says:

    I’m not as high on Sensy as you, JB. I mean, if you figure a “C” player as the definition of average and an “A/A+” as an All Pro, then your grade places GS as a borderline Pro Bowl starter. And I sure didn’t see THAT last season.

    However, I do see GS as a solid player, and one who will likely be better under Ryan than he was under Wade. Mainly because I absolutely believe Rob will have the defense playing with a lot more fire and we will all but certainly apply more pressure on QB’s. I also agree he’ll play as well as he’s capable because of the contract situation. With rare exception, I wish we could sign all our players to one or two year contracts. Never happen of course, but it would sure be nice.

    More than anything, what I’m looking for this year in our defense is the kind of hard hitting, max effort, opportunistic play we used to get back in the early 90′s under Jimmy. We might not have always been in the correct spot or hit the right guy, but man alive those guys would run and thump with anyone all day long.

    Boy, do I miss that.

  5. Mark Watkins says:

    I’m sure that the Cowboys could do worse than having Sensy. They should certainly be improved either way without AB back there.
    I agree with you Vince in that it sure would be nice if we could have all one year contracts. That would ensure that players would give it all they have. And as for your comment on max effort, that is one huge change I could see with the team this year. There are certain coaches (and I believe that JG and RR are such coaches) that could lead players to run through a brick wall. Wade was not one of those guys. I think that the Chargers have the same problem with Norv Turner. In fact, those two seem very similar in their approaches and their career paths, great coordinators who haven’t had much success as Head Coaches.
    At any rate, even though there haven’t been many personnel changes, I expect at least a few more wins just from the coaching changes.

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    Mark – Absolutely. Nothing chaps my rear end more than a player having a great season, getting a huge payday, and then flat lining or regressing after that for a few years until the next contract year arrives.

    I would think the players themselves would take issue with that sort of thing as well, since it no doubt negatively influences owners and GM’s at contract time. I wonder if any players went off on Haynesworth because of what he pulled on the Redskins.

    If I were an owner and a player suddenly had a super season his contract year, I’d be VERY hesitant to sign him to a long term deal with a huge signing bonus. I would look the guy right in the face and ask where that level of effort and play was before last season as well as why the team should expect him to maintain that level once he cashes the bonus check.

  7. Rick says:

    Remember when Ken Hamlin made the Pro Bowl on a one year deal, blatantly playing for a contract? That was awesome. Yeah, giving him a contract that paid him like a Pro Bowler wasn’t so good, but I can hope that one of these two has an awesome season.

  8. JJ says:

    I suspect that the Cowboys are not lighting the world on fire with Elam and Sensi but they adequate (although JBs concern about deep coverage concerns me). Yet, when I state “adequate,” it suggests they may be serviceable with good CB play.

    My concern (and that is assuming that Jenkins regains some form) is that we have no answer to what is painfully obvious to everyone…Newman is always hurt. Let’s assume that Jenkins is ok and Scandrick plays well in the slot….knowing that 3 CBs on the field is very common, who plays opposite of Jenkins? A gimpy Newman? Ball? McCann? Not pretty.

  9. Vince_Grey says:

    Look, if the pass rush is top rate, these guys will be more than adequate. If it’s dominant, some of them will look like All Pros.

    It’s all about the pass rush.

  10. Greg says:

    I have the same concern that JJ has. I just can’t understand why with frail Newman and Jekyll/Hyde Jenkins that Dallas does not sign at least one veteran CB to keep things moving. The UDFAs are really not a big help, McCann and Josh Thomas are not ready for primetime (pun intended), and Alan Ball should be banned from competitive sports in general. Scandrick is left to fend for himself while everyone else either evolves or implodes.

    Sign someone. Sign Ellis Hobbs or Kevin Dockery or Tye Hill or Kelvin Hayden. This way, the defensive machine can keep moving equally>

  11. Mark Watkins says:

    I have to believe that they will sign a veteran corner, possibly after the final cuts or maybe even after the first week so they don’t have to guarantee his contract. I suppose that would depend on who is available. If a good enough player gets cut, probably unlikely, then I would hope that the Boys would pounce. I definitely wouldn’t count on TNew staying healthy and this is the type of injury that he could easily reaggravate as he’s done in the past. On a side note, has anyone heard much about AOA as a safety? I had high hopes for him mostly due to his measurables, but haven’t read anything about him lately.

  12. JJ says:

    I tend to look at CBs in threes. Philly knows this all too well. So, assuming Scandrick/Newman/Jenkins are your 3…when healthy, not bad. The issue is that that is a dream state. Newman’s injuries hurt not only because there is a huge drop off but also because his veteran presence is lost.

    I read a rumor that the Cowboys would be happy to deal Choice to a team with RB need in return for a proven corner.

    They just need to find a team who is as desperate for a RB as Cowboys are for CB.

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