Gerald Sensabaugh: The Dallas Cowboys' Absolute X Factor

Martin LongCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 12:  Safety Gerald Sensabaugh #43 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes an interception on a pass intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos from Jay Cutler during NFL action on October 12, 2008 at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

There is one thing Roy Williams (the safety) was remembered for most towards the end of his tenure in Dallas. No, not the hard hits that he could lay on running backs breaking the line of scrimmage.  It was how he got burned on almost every single coverage play to which he was assigned.

I am sure every Dallas fan remembers Santana "The Cowboy Killer" Moss streaking down the sideline, right by Roy Williams for a touchdown, who really had no chance of stopping the play.

Now, with Williams being released from the Cowboys' roster, a young talent from Jacksonville, Gerald Sensabaugh, has been brought in to sure up coverage at the safety position.

Last season he had four picks for the Jaguars in what could be called his breakout season. He tacked on 80 tackles and eight passes defended.

Jacksonville would have obviously loved to resign Sensabaugh to a new contract, but past injury issues and an off the field situation in which he was arrested for possession of a firearm slowed talks. Sensabaugh decided instead to not wait around and go straight to a team that has winning expectations, a team where he could be utilized straight away.

That team was Dallas.

With Sensabaugh now obviously pegged as the starter at the strong safety position, what can he bring to the table that Roy Williams did not?


Sensabaugh was credited in Jacksonville for the way he moved, and how they could match him up against slot receivers without any hesitation.

This has also been affirmed by the Cowboys' coaching staff, who have said that they love Sensabaugh's instincts, closing speed, and coverage skills.

Roy Williams was never praised for his coverage skills, and was usually hidden in zone coverage, causing the Cowboys' coaching staff to adjust their play calling.

With Sensabaugh, there is no need for extra zone coverages, as he can play man and play it well.

With better man coverage, the Cowboys can bring more pressure on the quarterback, resulting in more sacks, rushed passes, and interceptions.

Roy Williams was a feared hitter and a great run supporter, and with him now gone, questions have risen as to whether Sensabaugh can step up to the line of scrimmage and perform just as well.

Last season, Sensabaugh had 80 tackles but no forced fumbles. However, he was credited when coming out of college (North Carolina) for having above average tackling skills and being able to stop the ball carriers' forward motion. Forcing fumbles is great, as it creates a potential turnover, but in some situations, it can be a double edged sword.

Think back to the NFC championship game last season.

Larry Fitzgerald catches a long pass down the field. Brian Dawkins comes in and tries to place a big hit on Fitzgerald. He times his hit incorrectly, and Fitzgerald easily bounces off of him, running in for a touchdown.

This is just one example of how being overly aggressive and trying to strip the ball backfired on the defender.

If Sensabugh can live up to being an above average tackler, then there should be no loss, but a gain in the run support department; something the Cowboys are in great need of after two 70-plus yard runs in the week 16 loss to Baltimore.

Sensabugh is the X factor on this defense, more so than Mike Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick, who have already proven they can play at the NFL standard in the Cowboys' system.

If Sensabaugh can cover as well as he has been credited for and wrap up running backs before the first down marker, he will become the essential piece to the puzzle that the Cowboys desperately need.


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