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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
  • Jonathan

    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…

  • Jonathan

    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!

  • https://insidethestar.com/ btreece

    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.

  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bags030404

    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.

  • https://insidethestar.com/ btreece

    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

Game Notes

LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys’ Disappointing Loss

Kevin Brady

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LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys Disappointing Loss

Sunday in Seattle didn't go nearly as well as anticipated for the Cowboys, as they fell to the Seahawks in embarrassing fashion, 24-13. While the final score looked close, the fact of the matter is that Dallas was dominated for much of the game.

Offensively they looked lost, unable to create any downfield passing threat or sustain scoring drives. Defensively they played okay, but not up to the standard they had established the first two games of the season. With the offense being as pedestrian as it has been, though, there is a ton of extra pressure placed upon the young defense's shoulders.

One of the youngest members of that young unit shouldered the pressure just fine on Sunday, however. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had himself a heck of a day, leading the team in tackles with 11 including 9 solo ones and a tackle for loss. He flashed his speed, pursuit, tackling ability, and overall athleticism as he worked laterally to make plays and contain the Seahawks running game on the edge.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

His performance built upon an impressive first two games, including a solid home opener against the New York Giants where he tallied 7 tackles in just 28 defensive snaps. Vander Esch hadn't seen the snaps that Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee saw prior to Sunday, but when Lee was forced to miss chunks of the game with injuries, Vander Esch shined.

A key knock placed on Vander Esch's game during the draft process was that he wasn't physical enough as a player. He tended to struggle when taking on blocks and wasn't as sure a tackler when things got muddied up as you'd like to see from a first round pick.

While these were legitimate concerns from his college tape, Leighton Vander Esch looked as comfortable and refined as you can expect from a rookie against the Seahawks. He was a top 3 player on the Cowboys' defense on Sunday, and the Cowboys should be ecstatic about his progress moving forward.

On Monday it was announced the the veteran Sean Lee is expected to miss a few weeks with yet another injury, allowing for Vander Esch to likely be the starter. Lee has been unreliable when it comes to his injury history, and you have to wonder if Vander Esch could supplant him as the full time starter earlier than anyone expected due to those injuries.

I, like many, questioned the Cowboys' selection of Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last year's draft. The lack of comparative position value combined with the questions about Vander Esch's game made me value a pass rusher like Harold Landry much higher than Vander Esch at 19.

So far, though, Leighton Vander Esch is proving the Cowboys right in their selection, and looks to be the starting WILL and three-down backer of the future in Dallas. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch playing how they have with limited experience, that future looks very bright defensively.



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Seahawks

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Seahawks

Like the majority of you, I was expecting the Dallas Cowboys to build off of their win over the New York Giants and put together a much better performance than they did against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I should've remembered that the Cowboys don't have the best track record when playing in Seattle.

If I would've been paying attention to the Cowboys history when playing in Seattle, I would have been much more prepared for the manhandling that took place a few days ago. Dallas just seems cursed when they play Seattle at home. It doesn't matter if it's a regular-season game or preseason.

I hate to say it, but maybe we should start calling it the Tony Romo curse. Maybe this all started with his botched snap that ended the Cowboys playoff run in 2007. Let's not forget Seattle is also where Romo's career probably ended when he hurt his back in a meaningless preseason game in 2016. As you can see, history doesn't lie.

If I would've remembered this, I probably still wouldn't be feeling a little sick to my stomach. Unfortunately it is what it is and all we can do is move on. But, that's not going to keep me from sharing with all of you what I believed to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Cowboys against the Seattle Seahawks in the Week 3 of the 2018 season.

The Good

Leighton Vander Esch

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

After pretty much getting completely manhandled by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, I had a pretty difficult time to find some good to put in this section about the way the Dallas Cowboys played. I really had to take a deep breath and put my emotions to the side for a little while, but I did discover a few individuals that deserved recognition.

The first person I want to identify is Cornerback Byron Jones. He continues to play at a really high level and is finally playing up to that first-round pedigree. It was also really good to see Running Back Ezekiel Elliott finally find some running room and look like his old self, although he probably could've done without the fumble. Lastly, how good is rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch playing? He finished with 11 total tackles against the Seahawks.

I know it doesn't provide much comfort in the way these individuals performed since the Cowboys couldn't come away with the victory, but at least it wasn't all bad. All we can do is hope they can clean things up and take this as a learning experience.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There was no shortage of bad for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks, but for me it had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing game. The struggles in the passing game is completely hamstringing the offensive productivity and unfortunately I have a hard time seeing them improving much right now.

Prescott is only averaging about 160 passing yards a game and that's just not going to cut it if this team is planning on winning many games this season. He has thrown just as many touchdowns (2) as he has interceptions (2) this year. To make matters worse, it looks as if there's a void of playmaking ability from his pass catchers.

Honestly, I don't really know where the blame should fall right now. Is it Prescott's fault or does it fall at the feet of his receivers? Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter because nothings working for either of them right now anyway.

The Ugly

Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

I was going to go with the stupid "mental" penalties the Dallas Cowboys had against the Seahawks yesterday for the ugly, but instead decided to go with the blown coverages in the secondary.

The Cowboys secondary has been playing really well so far this season, but unfortunately they blew a few assignments yesterday against the Seahawks which resulted  in touchdowns. I really thought they would be better prepared considering Kris Richard has spent nearly his entire coaching career in Seattle before joining the Cowboys, but maybe I was expecting too much.

I really thought the Cowboys secondary would shut down the Seahawks passing game, especially after what they were able to do in Week 2 against the New York Giants. The Giants have much better weapons in the passing game, but somebody forgot to tell Seattle's receivers. I still have high hopes that this was just a fluke, but I think I may temper my expectations a little moving forward.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Seahawks?



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Takes Accountability for Week 3 Loss

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott: NFL's History with Domestic Violence Shows Inconsistency, Hypocrisy 2
James D Smith via AP

Despite breaking 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott took the blame for Dallas' loss in Seattle yesterday.

A 31-yard touchdown reception was called back in the second quarter because Elliott stepped out-of-bounds prior to making the catch. Dallas would go on to kick a field goal, making the score 7-3, but Zeke's error cost the team four points on the drive.

Early in the fourth quarter, with Dallas trailing 24-6 but starting to find offensive rhythm, Elliott ripped off a 26-yard run. But the play ended with Zeke getting caught from behind and the ball knocked out of his hands, and the Seahawks recovering.

While many might argue the the Cowboys' inept passing game was the real reason for the loss, Elliott took full responsibility when talking to the media afterwards.

"I had a poor performance today," Elliott said. "Did well in the run game, but overall, I dropped the ball. That loss is on me."

"You can say whatever, but at the end of the day, when you've got the ball in your hands, that's the team in your hands," Elliott said. "Me being a leader on the team, me being a better player on this team, I got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. That cost us the game."

While Zeke may not have loved his leadership yesterday, these comments show that the 23-year-old is developing into one.

Last year, Elliott had little to say to the media. That was likely for the best, though, while he was embroiled in all of the controversy surrounding his suspension and appeals.

But now, a year removed from that issue and in his third year with the Cowboys, Zeke appears to have found his voice again. He is still the catalyst for the Dallas offense, and the highest-drafted player on the entire roster.

For a player whose maturity has been called into question during the first two years of his NFL career, Ezekiel Elliott showed a lot of it yesterday. Hopefully, it helps his team to regroup and get back to winning as the seasoning continues.



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