When we started this blog we had one goal in mind, to be the best fan blog out there. Well we forgot some details in that original goal and have since been shown a few new things we needed to work towards. Needless to say it became apparent that we had to write about something on here that would keep you all interested.
So we brought you an interview with a rather unlikely candidate – Mickey Spagnola, the www.DallasCowboys.com writer. We got some good feedback and it was fun to do, but our real goal with that was to get the fire started, and today the flames have risen once again.
Some of you know him and others only know of him. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 draft after he recorded a record vertical jump of 46’6 at the combine. He then started all 16 games his rookie season with the Jaguars.
He’s coming off of his best year in Jacksonville where he amassed 55 tackles, a team leading 4 interceptions, and 8 passes deflected while playing in all 16 games, starting 13. He’s the new starting Strong Safety in Dallas and has already shown us that he can cover man to man like Roy Williams only dreamed of doing.
I’m happy to present to you #43 Gerald Sensabaugh!
DCNation: In the off season you had an opportunity to sign a long term deal elsewhere, why did you decide to opt for a one year deal with the Cowboys?
Gerald: The numbers weren't where I wanted them to be. So I figured I would take one last shot and see what I can get after another 1 year deal. I also wanted to go to a larger market team and experience football with some tradition behind it.
DCNation: We know that the main goal every year is to win the Super Bowl, but can this team realistically do that? Why?
Gerald: Yes, this team has the talent and personnel to do so. There are many explosive players on the offensive side of the ball, so expect lots of points. On the defensive side, we have the opportunity to be one of the best defenses this year in the league. So if you combine the two, I say we have a legit shot at winning the Superbowl.
DCNation: The past couple of years this Cowboys team has had plenty of talent to get deep into the playoffs, lack of execution has been the Achilles heel to this team. Every year the fans of the Cowboys hear "how things will be different" from the same players, so many fans have grown weary of their talk. So far in your first year with the Cowboys, what can you tell us about this team - what makes you think that you can contend this year?
Gerald: We will be major contenders this year. Going through OTA's this team got a lot better from last year. Through training camp we are going to fine tune the chemistry and we will be set to go.
DCNation: Based on what you’ve seen so far, what do you think about the cornerback situation that’s brewing? Scandrick has shown serious talent, but Jenkins was drafted higher and also brings some good coverage skills. Your thoughts?
Gerald: I'm very exited about the two young corners. No matter who starts, they both will be major contributors to this defense.
DCNation: The 2008 Dallas Cowboys Defense was a strong unit, but I think the coaches and fans believe that this years defense could be one of the best in the entire NFL. It is my perception that the biggest reason for these thoughts is because of you. What do you feel is the greatest asset you’re bringing to this team?
Gerald: I feel that I bring the ability to cover at the strong safety position. I have had my share of both run stuffing and covering but I believe the need here in Dallas is to cover more. I am still expecting to make a impact on the run game also.
DCNation: Is there another player, former or current, that you have tried to pattern your play after? Why?
Gerald: Donovan Darius because he was a physical player that was know for big hits, and always being around the football. And Deon Grant because of his ball skills and coverage ability. Those are the two that I learned from as a youngster and I tried to pattern my game with both of theirs combined.
DCNation: It’s no secret that the Cowboys have struggled in recent years at the Strong Safety position. From both the perspective of your new teammates and your own estimations, what do you feel is your biggest goal for 2009 to bolster the Strong Safety position in Dallas?
Gerald: Covering Man to Man. To make a bigger difference in the passing game.
DCNation: Many fans in the NFL view the safety position as a guy who can really lower the boom on opposing players. The Dallas Cowboys recently had a safety who was known for that, but was not very good to say the least in coverage. Does your play favor coverage over hitting? Or do you feel you are a balanced Safety?
Gerald: I feel that I am balanced. In my prior years I had to do both.
DCNation: Dave Campo has had defensive success in Dallas before, and as well in Jacksonville. Having seen him in action in both places, what do you think he brings to a team that might be otherwise missing?
Gerald: He brings a positive, fair, competitive environment that players like. He's a coach that gets the best out of his players.
DCNation: It is obvious that you were brought in to be the starter, but do you still feel like you need to prove that you are the man in training camp?
Gerald: Yes, I always have to prove something. Here in Dallas there is a lot of competition. We have guys that can play safety and corner. This secondary is real athletic. Everybody here can play.
DCNation: Of the scheduled opponents for 2009, which team concerns you the most as a safety?
Gerald: I really don't have any concerns but I do respect all teams equally. Every team brings a different attack to the table so you must prepare as best as you can for all of them.
DCNation: Can you give us a little insight about the work ethic and demeanor of your new Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator?
Gerald: Coach Phillips is going to make sure that we work hard and get things right. He is less tolerant of errors (especially mental errors), I can tell those get under his skin.
DCNation: Playing in the AFC South you were able to test your abilities against one of the greatest QB's of this era, Peyton Manning. Was there anything you learned from your time against him that you feel will help you be a top tier Safety in this league?
Gerald: Reading QB's and not going for fakes. He's the pump king and does it every play. He makes the safety play honest and is hard to get a tip on.
DCNation: There has been a lot of talk about some incidents in your past, are those things behind you now? And is there anything you would like to let the fans in Dallas know about you to clear up any questions they may have?
Gerald: The whole past is behind me and I'm looking forward to winning the super bowl with the Cowboys. That is my main focus.
[wstlink]r http://www.GeraldSensabaugh.net[/wstlink]You can find out more about Gerald by going to his website – www.GeraldSensabaugh.net – he has a blog there that he not only updates rather often, but he actually participates in comments on his blog. Truly a class act and we welcome him to Dallas.
We want to thank Gerald Sensabaugh not only for speaking with us, but for taking the time to do so from San Antonio as training camp starts. We also look forward to more interviews with Gerald throughout the season.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: LB Kyle Wilber
While not one of the glamour players for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Kyle Wilber has been a steady and reliable asset for six seasons. He is set to be a free agent this offseason, and his return to Dallas is hard to project.
A fourth-round pick in 2012, Wilber has only started 16 games but been active for nearly all of them. Even when not having a major part on defense, Kyle has been standout special teams player almost every season.
Dallas saw Wilber's value in 2016 and gave him a two-year extension after his rookie contract expired. Now, though, Kyle turns 29 in April and it may be time to give his roster spot to a younger option with more upside.
It's impressive that Kyle Wilber's lasted this long with the Cowboys. He was drafted to play outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme at that time under Rob Ryan. When Monte Kiffin arrived in 2013 and the switch was made to the 4-3, Wilber was able to transition and stick around for five more seasons.
Wilber's depth value and special teams play earned him $3.25 million over the last two years. Would the Cowboys offer him a similar deal to stick around for another couple of seasons, or is it time to move on?
One factor helping Kyle is that even though Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys promoted from within. Keith O'Quinn has been here since before Wilber's time and knows what he brings to the table. He could push to keep one of his veteran leaders around.
Another consideration is that Dallas isn't flush with linebacker talent at the moment. Anthony Hitchens is a free agent, and if he doesn't return then that only leaves Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson as the known entities.
The Cowboys haven't allowed age to stop them from doing business with Justin Durant the last few seasons. He was 31 when the team signed him last year for veteran depth and insurance.
Could Dallas offer Kyle Wilber a similar deal, one or two years max at a minimal salary, to stick around? It's very possible, and especially if they let him see what free agency has to offer for about a month.
Even if 2017 was the end of his Cowboys run, Wilber has been a success as a fourth-round pick. He's been there when needed and been a leader on special teams. Earning a second contract with your original teams is always an accomplishment.
We'll have to wait and see if he gets a third.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: OT Byron Bell
Offensive tackle became a problem position for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. One guy who helped the situation was veteran backup Byron Bell. He is now a free agent, but Dallas could may be interested in bringing him back next year.
Bell was signed last March to provide depth and insurance on the offensive line. He had experience at both guard and center, starting almost every game since entering the NFL in 2011. Byron had missed all of 2016 with an ankle injury while a member of the Tennessee Titans.
After spending the first part of the year at the bottom of the depth chart, Bell was called into duty after a disastrous performance by Chaz Green in the team's Week 10 game against the Atlanta Falcons. With starting left tackle Tyron Smith injured, Green got the start and was obliterated by Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn to the tune of six sacks.
Byron got the start the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was clearly better than Green. He would remain the team's swing tackle the rest of the season and got another start in the meaningless Week 17 finale.
Now Byron Bell is a 29-year-old free agent. With Chaz Green seemingly a failed experiment, Dallas has to figure out what to do about their depth behind Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. Could they be in the market to re-sign Bell?
Given his vast starting experience and position flexibility, Byron may have some other suitors in free agency. Offensive linemen age slower than other positions, so 29 isn't the same mark of death that a running back or corner might deal with.
A likely scenario here is that Dallas, assuming they'd like to have Bell back at all, would let him test free agency and then hopefully re-sign him later in the offseason to a minimal contract. Like last year, he would make sense for insurance at the position and especially if the team is going to part ways with Green.
What's more, Byron has increased value after a year in the Cowboys system. Also, in 2017 he was coming off an entirely missed season with the ankle injury. He's a more attractive asset in 2018.
That increased value could be seen by other teams, too. While Bell has had his ups and downs, he's accomplished enough that his name will be noticed among other free agents. A team with major needs on the offensive line might even consider him to compete for a starting job.
We don't know what the Cowboys' interest level is in bringing Byron Bell back, but they may have competition for his services. Given the role he filled to finish 2017, he could wind up an underrated free agent departure this offseason.
4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster
Maneuvering through the NFL offseason is a funny task for committed football fans, especially those of Cowboys Nation. Prior to the start of each new season bringing hope for all 32 clubs to reach the Super Bowl, every NFL roster enters a tumultuous state. Talent will be added through free agency and the Draft, while promising players will also be shuffled around through practice squads and training camp releases.
All of that to say, despite criticism for appearing stagnant so far this offseason on the heels of a 9-7 campaign, nobody knows what the Dallas Cowboys will actually look like in 2018. This is why I've decided to feature four under the radar players on the current Cowboys' roster below, all of which provide depth at positions of need.
TE Blake Jarwin
An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, Blake Jarwin found his way onto the Cowboys' practice squad for 2017.
Jarwin showed enough promise early in his Cowboys career to earn fans on the coaching staff and throughout the organization, as he was promoted to the active roster in week eight. The Philadelphia Eagles were reportedly in position to snatch Jarwin from the Cowboys - who protected their versatile tight end.
The TE position remains unsettled for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond, with Jason Witten's production clearly declining. The Cowboys will also be on their third TE coach in three seasons this year, transitioning to Doug Nussmeier.
Nussmeier brings no previous experience as a TE coach specifically, meaning the team's overall philosophy on the position will still be determined heavily by Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Favoring tight ends that can block in the running game over those with higher upside as receiving threats, Jarwin is a name to keep in mind as a tenacious blocker that plays with sound technique.
WR Lance Lenoir
This past summer, I had the chance to interview Dallas Cowboys WR Lance Lenoir following his signing with the team out of Western Illinois. In that interview, Lenoir shows off the confidence he took into training camp as a receiver that would have a hard time making the team.
By the end of this long season, the Cowboys went from being perceived as deep and talented at WR to in need of new play makers on the outside.
Perhaps pressing a bit through the preseason, Lenoir did provide practice depth as a reliable pass catcher and punt returner, struggling on special teams in live action and ultimately spending the season on the practice squad.
The 2018 NFL Draft features a deep class of talented receivers, and the Cowboys would be wise to draft one with real potential that can push up the depth chart in a hurry. As far as current options on the roster to fill this position, WR Lance Lenoir can't be overlooked as an athletic target with NFL size and strength - entering his second season in Dallas.
DT Datone Jones
A mid-season acquisition from the Green Bay Packers, Datone Jones flashed as a defensive tackle in the limited opportunities he received. A five-year league veteran, Jones showed the ability to play with power and leverage at the 1T position - a spot the Cowboys are thin at right now.
Jones' versatility also suited him well, playing with impressive burst and disruptive ability as a pass-rushing 3T.
The addition of one more starting caliber DT could truly put this Dallas defensive front over the edge. With how much Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli believes in his DL rotation though, players like Datone Jones can prove immensely valuable.
DT Lewis Neal
Similarly to Jones, Lewis Neal is a fan-favorite defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Neal has absolutely earned the attention he's gotten, a UDFA out of LSU that plays the 1T position better than expected given his size.
The Cowboys have gotten by in recent years with smaller, more mobile players at this interior DT spot, with Neal being their latest post-draft steal to make an impact.
Lewis Neal appeared in seven games for the Cowboys this season, finding ways to help those around him by anchoring the line of scrimmage and disengaging with active hands and a quick base. This is a player that should be a valuable part of the team's depth on the defensive line.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The year-to-year nature of the NFL can be a wonderful thing (unfortunately, ask any Eagles fan right now). Part of this reality is understanding that none of the players listed above may actually stick with the Dallas Cowboys for 2018.
Next week's NFL Scouting Combine will kick "draft season" into full gear however, as the Cowboys will be working to better understand their teams needs and how they can be addressed.
Jarwin, Lenoir, Jones, and Neal all contributed or showed the promise to do so at positions the Cowboys must improve at this season - warranting a closer look through this dull portion of the offseason.
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