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Straw That Stirs The Defenses Drink?

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The 2009 version of the Dallas Cowboys defense will look and feel like a completely new unit. With an influx of young energetic, athletic players and a full season with Wade Phillips as the Coordinator will certainly change things.

There is one person however who holds the key to what this team can be, and it might not be who most of us would have thought either!

Now we could come up with at least a handful of names that at the very least could drastically change what this defense will be able to accomplish this year, Demarcus Ware, Terrence Newman, Bradie James, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick... just to name a few.

None of those guys can do for this unit what one Gerald Sensabaugh can though! I realize it sounds ridiculous to think that a guy who many of us did not even know who he was could suddenly be the main component in elevating this average defense to a top flight unit.

Gerald has already made a profound impression upon Wade Phillips during OTA's, saying

"Sensabaugh looks outstanding" Phillips said last week. "He's really got a lot of ability, good work ethic, but he can really cover a lot of ground. We can cover in man to man with him...he has great speed along with cover ability."

I may not agree with a lot of the things that Wade Phillips does or does not do, but when that guy speaks about what he see's in a defensive player, I do not question it!

When Wade tells us "He can really cover a lot of ground. We can cover in man to man with him..." He is speaking volumes about what Gerald means to this unit! Everyone wanted an Ed Reed type of safety, well guess what, Wade just told us that we now have one.

In Baltimore's system Ed Reed is allowed to roam around in the defensive backfield and to just "go after the ball." They will play some zone coverage, but primarily they stay in a man to man scheme. Ed Reed thrives in this type of system for two reasons.

First, Reed is very fast, and secondly he has excellent cover ability. Now I am in by no means saying that Gerald Sensabaugh is about to become the second coming of Ed Reed (although I certainly believe it is a possibility) I am simply comparing the two systems and how safeties with these abilities can change the culture of those systems.

Gerald Sensabaugh will allow the likes of Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, and the rookies to pin their ears back and send blitz packages at the opposing offense that they simply cannot plan for.

Wade Phillips has been dreaming about this type of safety since he became the Head Coach here, and his players know it!

Wade is ready, and so are his troops, thanks to one Gerald Sensabaugh.



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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jonathan

    June 4, 2009 at 11:24 am

    The funny thing is, on another blog, an op was siting who he thought would be the x factor for the Cowboys in 09. He claimed that would Felix.

    I responded: I’m going to pick Sensabaugh. Not because he’s more of an impact player than Felix or Scandrick, but because Wade’s style of defense has missed a SS that can cover. In the process of hiding Roy Williams deficiencies, his ability to bring blitzes from everywhere have been hampered. Now that he has a SS that can cover, I actually expect the Cowboys to not only improve their sack total from last year, but I think they may even be in the top 10 with interceptions. Wishful thinking, I know, but Wade really seems to be excited about Sensabaugh’s ability, above everyone else he’s acquired through the offseason. To me, that is very telling.

    Nice to know that I’m not the only one who is looking forward to the dimension Sensabaugh adds to this defense…

  2. Jonathan

    June 4, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Oddly enough, the only thing the so-called experts seem to be focusing on is 9-7 and the release of T.O. Somehow, that now makes us an 8-8 team!? And I love it. As last year likely taught most of us, it is far better to be underestimated than overestimated.

    But, honestly, I feel as though this truly exposes the media. First of all, they rely heavily on stats to make the vast majority of their predictions. The problem with that method is stats can be misleading. For example, they point to Romo’s supposed December swoon to suggest that Romo can’t win the big game. How many QB’s throughout the history of football have gone winless in the play offs throughout their first several years? Quite a few. Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman – all considered great QB’s and yet when their career’s began, they experienced much of the same criticism that Romo is getting today. I would expect this from the average fan; but the “experts” should know better by now.

    Second, they completely disregard the fact that the Cowboys experienced more injuries to key players than they have since the 80’s; if not the most in the history of the franchise. Romo, Felix, Kosier, Holland, Hurd, Austin, Terence Newman, both Roy William’s, Marion Barber, Flozell Adams, Matt McBriar, Anthony Spencer, Ken Hamlin, Patrick Watkins, etc. etc. Granted, many wouldn’t regard a few of those as key players, however, I would argue that they were made key by the injury to the individual who was key. For instance, Holland replaced Kosier. Watkins replaced Roy Williams.

    Lastly, the Cowboy’s were real close to competing with the best teams in the league; namely the eventual Super Bowl teams – the Cardinals and the Steelers. The only games the Cowboys were dominated was against the Rams (I put that loss squarely on the shoulders of Bad “I mean Brad” Johnson) and the last game versus the Eagles (that was an offday for every member of the team). But even with the losses of T.O., Pacman, Tank Johnson, Chris Canty, Zach Thomas, and Anthony Henry, the Cowboys are still a very talented team.

    Top tier QB in Romo. One of the best, if not the best, trio of backs in the league. The best duo at TE; no question there. A WR group with obvious questions, but still alot of potential. An offense line that can dominate when healthy.

    On defense, the best OLB in the league Demarcus Ware. The most technically sound Strong Side Inside Linebacker Bradie James. When healthy, Terence Newman can nullify the best WR on just about any team in the league. And Jay Ratliff is a freak of nature at DT. Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky, at least, should be solid at DE.

    Ken Hamlin has received alot of criticism, citing the two runs that sealed the win for Baltimore as being his fault. Personally, I think, while he may have not played like his 07 self, he was still solid in a situation where he was surrounded by inexperience throughout most of the year. That can be a very difficult situation for a Safety. As the QB for the defense, if you are more focused on making sure your youngens are eyeing the right assignments, that means you are spending less time eyeing what the offense is doing. I think this may have ultimately hurt his play. I expect Hamlin to have another break out year, particularly considering his Safety mate won’t be the liability it has been in the past.

    Above, I talked about Gerrard Sensabaugh being the X factor. He is not proven to be on the same level as the above players. However, again, it’s what he can do, that Roy Williams could not that makes him such an excellent acquisition and addition to this team. It’s what his position means to the Wade 3-4 that will likely make this defense the most dominating unit that it has been since 2003. Of course, I am only speculating here. But, then again, so are the experts!

  3. btreece

    June 4, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I was looking at Sensabaugh’s stats and realized that he has never recorded a sack before. Of course he has plenty of numbers, so I look at that stat as saying that he is a true cover safety. It’s what he knows how to do, and what he does best. Not knocking ole Roy Willy, but we got enough for the blitz, we need someone who can cover deep from the middle.

    Good article.

  4. Bags030404

    June 4, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I really believe we will finally get to see the “Full Package” from Wade’s playbook this year. The thing that is most encouraging for me is that I have known for a while that we had some really special defensive guys, but we were missing someone who could cover their butts deep. Now with Gerald the rest of the guys can let it all hang out there without fear of getting beat deep.

  5. btreece

    June 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

    And with all the controversy surrounding Phillips and 9-7, it seems like even the experts are leaving out the formerly undisputed fact that Wade Phillips knows the 3-4 defense and it’s constructors (players) better than anyone. It’s not even being disputed now, just ignored.

    So if he likes a player, a guy who has been mostly under-rated in the way that Sensabaugh has, who has had any type of legal issues, which he has, after the likes of Adam Jones, it is certainly worth looking at just why Wade likes Sensabaugh so much. He may not be Mr. Playmaker come August, but he certainly won’t be the guy nobody wants to be either.

    Great comment there Jonathan

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Defensive End

Jess Haynie

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DeMarcus Lawrence

If quarterback is the most important position in football, then the guys who hunt them down might be second. As such, the Dallas Cowboys face a major offseason decision in 2019 when it comes to the free agency of Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.

This will be Lawrence's second year as an unrestricted free agent, with Dallas retaining him last season using the franchise tag. Even though he accepted it in 2018, DeMarcus swore all the way back in that summer that he wouldn't play for the Cowboys in 2019 if franchised again.

Despite his sack numbers dropping a bit last season, "Tank" remains one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. He is a total package of pass-rushing and run stopping, and he's now given Dallas two-straight Pro Bowl seasons.

If the Cowboys have any plans to contend for a championship next season then they can't risk losing a player like Lawrence. We've seen what this defense looks like without a premiere pass rusher and it isn't pretty.

Of course, Dallas could try to replace DeMarcus with a different free agent signing. If Jadeveon Clowney or Frank Clark avoid being tagged by their own teams, perhaps the Cowboys can lure one of them over. But don't expect any big difference in compensation between these three players.

Whether it's Lawrence or one of the other premiere pass rushers in free agency, you can expect the Cowboys to make one of them their top offseason priority. The greater mystery is if Dallas will make any other moves to upgrade the DE position, or stick with what they've got.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

Dallas finally enjoyed some real production out of Randy Gregory in 2018, whose personal issues nearly derailed the talented pass rusher's career. Gregory posted six sacks last season and was starting to look like the Robin to Lawrence's Batman.

Also in the mix is 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, who took a backwards step last year and seemed to be in the coaches' doghouse by season's end. Motivation and attitude seem to be an issue for him, and he'll need to step it up this summer if he doesn't want to wind up at the back of the depth chart again.

One of last year's fourth-round picks Dorance Armstrong also returns. He will hopefully be ready to take on a larger role in his second season and provide another pass rushing threat, plus insurance in case Gregory suffers any return of past problems.

If Dallas doesn't make Tyrone Crawford a salary cap casualty, or chooses to re-sign David Irving, those are two other guys who can play some defensive end for you.

Despite these options, the Cowboys could still look at adding another mid-grade free agent for depth and insurance. They could hope for a bargain on veterans like Ezekiel Ansah, Vinny Curry, or Chris Long. They might hope that Rod Marinelli could work his magic on first-round flop Dante Fowler.

Another guy that Dallas might look at is Benson Mayowa, who was with them from 2016-2017 and is a solid player. He spent the last season in Arizona on a one-year deal and is still just 27 years old.

Don't expect much from the draft, barring a major steal presenting itself. The Cowboys have bigger needs with their limited number of 2019 picks, and they also still need to see how recent selections like Charlton and Armstrong play out.

This offseason is all about DeMarcus Lawrence, or at least one of the other marquee free agents at defensive end. Some supplemental moves are possible, but arguably the biggest move Dallas makes the next few months is either retaining or replacing their top pass rusher.



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Dallas Cowboys

Offense or Defense, Which Should be the Cowboys Main Offseason Focus?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Need to Upgrade the Offense or Defense More?

The Dallas Cowboys offseason should be approached like a puzzle. You have to know what the picture looks like beforehand before you start grabbing random pieces to try to fit them together. Keeping that in mind, I thought it be a good idea if we take a look at the Cowboys offense and defense to try to determine which one needs the most attention.

It may be somewhat surprising, but the Dallas Cowboys pretty much have the entire puzzle almost put together. There is just a few missing pieces they need to add, but for the most part the team that will take the field when the 2019 season kicks off is already in place.

There isn't going to be much roster turnover this offseason. Nearly all of the starters will return for the upcoming season on both sides of the ball, meaning the Cowboys are in good shape as far as having the teams nucleolus in place. In fact, there might be just one or two starting positions up for grabs on offense and defense.

Let's take a look…

Dallas Cowboys Offense

Kellen Moore, Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore

As things stand right now before any moves are made in free agency or through the draft, the Dallas Cowboys offense may have just two starting spots up for grabs. But, even that's just a guesstimate because we still don't really know what the future holds for Center Travis Frederick, even though all signs point to him making a triumphant return to the starting lineup.

The way I see it though, the Cowboys will need to find someone to replace Cole Beasley in the passing game and also add a starting caliber tight end. That's it really as far as the starters are concerned. There is however need for more depth at several positions such as backup running back and offensive tackle, but those aren't necessarily "needs". I'd say they're in pretty good shape offensively compared to years past.

Dallas Cowboys Defense

Kris Richard

Dallas Cowboys Assistant Coach Kris Richard

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys really don't have any glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball either. After finishing as one of the top defensive units in 2018, they will have nearly all of their starters returning for the 2019 season. But much like on the offensive side of the ball, there could be two starting spots up for grabs.

The Cowboys will have to find someone to replace Damien Wilson as the starting strong side linebacker and potentially a new starting strong safety. That's really the only starting positions I believe are up for grabs on defense. But like the offense, they could stand to add more depth and competition throughout the defense, especially along the defensive line. But again, there really isn't a glaring "need" they absolutely have to address.

Verdict: Cowboys Offense

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Even though the Dallas Cowboys offense and defense seems to be pretty evenly matched as to how many starting positions are up for grabs, the offense looks to be the one that needs just a little bit more help. The defense proved in 2018 they are someone to be reckoned with and with the loss of just Damien Wilson, that shouldn't change. The same can't be said about the offense though.

If Cole Beasley does indeed leave via free agency, that's a big blow to the passing game. But, it's not just him. Other than their rushing attack, the Cowboys offense was ranked in the bottom half of the league in nearly every other category. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan now gone we can hope that improves, but that doesn't mean improving the offense shouldn't be the Cowboys main offseason focus though.

Of course, this is just my opinion and you are more than welcome to agree or disagree with it. But, when the free agency and NFL draft ball finally starts rolling, I expect most of the Cowboys offseason moves to be on the offensive side of the ball. Improving things around Quarterback Dak Prescott would seem like the wise thing to do after all, especially since he's about to be paid quite handsomely.

Which side of the ball do you think needs more help this offseason?



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Quarterback

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of work to do to restock and refine their roster in the hope of improving of last year's playoff run. We'll be looking at all of the 2019 needs for this offseason in the coming days, and we're going to start with paramount position of quarterback.

Unlike most spots on the team, the quarterbacks don't have anyone with an expiring contract this year. Both Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush will be in the final year of their deals, while Mike White still has three years left on his rookie contract.

Despite this, Prescott's contract is still one the hottest issues the Cowboys face this offseason. They must decide if they want to go ahead and lock him up now to a long-term extension, or wait and see how Dak performs in his fourth season.

It's a real dilemma for Dallas. One the one hand, Prescott already has two Pro Bowls, two division titles, and all winning seasons on his three-year resume. However, he's also had ongoing accuracy issues and problems with consistent productivity in an increasingly pass-focused league.

Given what he's already accomplished, Dak can command a pretty sizable contract in current negotiations. Just within the week he's already commented on not planning to give the Cowboys a discount in his next deal.

If Dallas waits another year then they risk that price tag going up. They could be competing with the open market, or what if Prescott leads the team to the NFC Championship or beyond in 2019?

If Dak's camp is already going to be aggressive in contract negotiations this year, then there's a case to be made for just waiting. Let him play on his bargain $2.14 million cap hit and use the savings to load up on talent for a championship run. The team will still have resources to re-sign Prescott in 2020, or even franchise tag him, if that's their choice.

Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Mike White

However that situation goes, we know that Dak is the starter in 2019. But even though Cooper Rush and Mike White are both due to return next season, should the Cowboys be satisfied with that QB depth chart?

As I wrote about earlier this week, Dallas has good reason to look at adding a veteran passer to the mix this offseason. If Rush and White beat him out, that's great. But if not, it adds an experienced voice to help Dak Prescott in this critical upcoming year.

You can go a few different ways. Some of the projected free agents can match Prescott's mobile style, such as Tyrod Taylor, Trevor Siemian, or Robert Griffin III. Others give you the experience edge such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, or Matt Schaub.

It doesn't seem likely that the Cowboys would draft another QB after just taking Mike White last year with a fifth-round pick. Unless they are moving to a completely different philosophy, Dallas will likely give White at least another year or two to develop as a mid-round selection.

Ideally, at least one of White or Cooper Rush will show some growth this year and inspire confidence as the immediate backup. But adding a veteran for competition certainly couldn't hurt, and Dallas has the cap space to do it.

Thankfully, everything that Dallas might have to do this offseason at quarterback is optional.  They can choose whether or not to redo Prescott's contract, or whether or not to pursue upgrades behind him. There is no gaping hole being created by a potential free agent departure.

The Cowboys have the power now, but that can quickly change next season once Dak's a free agent. That's why they still have a big decision to make in 2019.



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