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.
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 percent 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?