And the most underrated player on the Dallas Cowboys is. . .

By Jonathan Bales

Last week, I posted an article detailing why safety Gerald Sensabaugh is the most overrated player on the team.  It isn’t that Sensabaugh wasn’t solid last season, but rather that the gap between his perceived play and actual play was the largest of any player.

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.

Like selecting an overrated player, choosing one who is underrated means disagreeing with public opinion.  My selection for the Cowboys’ most underrated player is an unheralded veteran at a “boring” position.  He has been solid for years but rarely receives the credit he deserves.  It is. . .

Left Guard Kyle Kosier.

Not what you were expecting?  Here is why Kosier’s play has been far superior than that for which he receives credit:

The Numbers

Kosier has never been particularly mauling in the run game.  His statistics from last season prove that, as the yards-per-carry, big runs percentage, and negative run percentage on plays during which he blocked at the point of attack are all about average.  Overall, we provided Kosier with a “B-” grade in run blocking.

In terms of pass protection, however, Kosier has been outstanding.  He yielded just one sack all of last season (0.14 percent of all pass plays)–the best on the team.  Of course Kosier doesn’t face the speed rushers that an offensive tackle must face, but one sack allowed–no matter the position–is impressive.  We gave him a “B+” in pass protection.

An Argument Against Kosier

Those who are still not pro-Kosier will point to the fact that only 11.45 percent of runs behind him went for 10+ yards (lowest on the team) and he also committed nine penalties last season.  As a guard, Kosier’s penalty count must certainly decrease.  He is in the middle of the action (meaning sometimes he receives blocking aid from center Andre Gurode) and shouldn’t be out of position enough to commit nine penalties.

However, as a guard, the upside on runs behind Kosier is limited.  The yards-per-carry and big play percentage when he is at the point of attack will never be outstanding due to the nature of his position.

His Future

Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million contract in 2006, meaning he will be a free agent after this season.  As good as he has been in Dallas, his future is very uncertain.  He will be 32 years old by season’s end, meaning the Cowboys will be searching for his replacement in the near future.

One thing Kosier has going for him is that the ‘Boys failed to address the guard position during this year’s draft.  Current backup guards Montrae Holland, Travis Bright, and (perhaps) Pat McQuistan have yet to show starter ability.  If Kosier plays well again this season, the Cowboys may look to sign him to a short-term deal to buy time while they groom his replacement, whoever it may be.