The 2009 season promises to be interesting from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball for the Dallas Cowboys. Secondary Coach Dave Campo, who re-signed with Dallas last year, will definitely have his hands full trying to get the team's secondary back on the right track.
Following the NFL's free agency and draft periods, the Cowboys still have several glaring holes to fill, chief among them are repairing and developing a quality secondary.
Dallas was ranked eighth in league in total defense and surprisingly fifth against the pass last season. But, any true-blue Cowboys fan will tell you, the 'Boys are one more Terrance Newman knee injury away from falling into the NFL basement in both categories.
In the last two seasons, Terrance has missed a total of nine games with injuries. The Cowboys were 3-3 (2008) and 2-1 (2007) in those games. However, his importance to the Cowboys defense can't be measured in wins and losses alone.
Newman, like his predecessor Deion Sanders, has the rare combination of lateral speed and quickness with glue-like hands that make him a shutdown corner against most NFL passing attacks, effectively changing the other team's game plan. But, when he is not on the field, opposing offensive coordinators can open up their entire playbook.
The Cowboys stand to be considerably more vulnerable this season against the pass with the departure of Keith Davis (SAF), Roy Williams (SAF), and Adam Jones (CB).
In Dallas' defense, they did make a few moves during the free-agency and draft periods that should offer a glimmer of hope to fans.
Gerald Sensabaugh, a fifth-year veteran from North Carolina, should provide immediate dividends at the safety position. Last season, in only 13 starts, he had eight pass deflections and four interceptions. He has cat-like reflexes, speed, agility, and packs a powerful punch, recording 70 total tackles, 59 solos.
Unfortunately, Mike Hawkins, a third-year player from Oklahoma, doesn't have the playing record of some veterans at the corner back position.
In just three seasons, Hawkins has played for three different teams: Green Bay, Cleveland, and Minnesota, but wasn't able to play his way onto the field last year with the Vikings. He is a home town prospect from R.L. Turner HS and has a lot of potential. In 2005, his most productive season, he had 13 tackles and two pass deflections.
Those two players alone will not be enough to turn the Cowboys from playoff outsiders into playoff contenders this season, but, they will go a long way to filling some of the holes left vacant in the defensive secondary by the last group of defensive players that were either unwilling or unable to get the job done.