Cowboys try to find the next Gerald Sensabaugh at safety

Posted Monday, May. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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More information Select company The Dallas Cowboys have only had seven defensive backs selected in the first round, but only one true safety in Roy Williams: Aaron Kyle, DB, 1976 Rod Hill, CB, 1982 Kevin Smith, CB, 1992 Roy Williams, S, 2002 Terrence Newman, CB, 2003 Mike Jenkins, CB, 2008 Morris Claiborne, CB, 2012 Safety investment It’s been a long time since the Dallas Cowboys made a first-round draft investment in a safety. Here’s a look at the highest draft choices, by position, in club history: Quarterback=Troy Aikman=1st overall, 1989 =Steve Walsh=1st overall, 1990 (supplemental Running back=Tony Dorsett=2nd overall, 1977 Wide receiver=Michael Irvin=11th overall, 198 Tight End= Billy Joe DuPree=20th overall, 1973 Offensive Line= John Niland=5th overall, 1966 Defensive Line= Ed Jones=1st overall, 1974 =Russell Maryland= 1st overall, 1991 Linebacker= Lee Roy Jordan=6th overall, 1963 Cornerback= Terence Newman=5th overall, 2003 Safety= Roy Williams=8th overall, 2002 Kicker= Max Zendejas=100th overall (4th round), 1986 Punter= Marv Bateman=78th overall (third round), 1972

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engel Jason Garrett said retired safety Gerald Sensabaugh has a lot of football left in him. Notice he didn’t say “good football.”

Now that Sensabaugh has retired, complete with the silliest one-day contract in the history of professional sports, the team can “move forward” trying to find the next Gerald Sensabaugh.

Let’s aim higher and shoot for Darren Woodson.

Of the many fears Dallas Cowboys fans wrestle with this off-season, put “Major Draft Screw-up” near the top of the list.

Selecting Wisconsin center Travis Frederick is not the goof.

Passing on LSU safety Eric Reid is.

When the San Francisco 49ers, who over the past two seasons have been the best team in the NFC, determine that Reid is worthy of the 18th pick, you tend to think he can play. The Niners are at the top of the draft-day trust tree.

When the Dallas Cowboys, who in the 1990s were a great team, determine that Reid is not worth selecting at the same spot, you tend to think they blew it. The Cowboys cut down their draft-day trust tree years ago.

The Cowboys have needed a safety since Woodson retired after the ’03 season. If you want to be nice, go with Roy Williams in ’06.

Ken Hamlin had one “I want to get paid” year in 2007 and, other than that, it’s been a steady diet of Pat Watkins, Tony Dixon, Keith Davis, Alan Ball and Abe Elam. Because it’s been bad to average at safety for the past five or six seasons, we almost believed Sensabaugh was good.

Cowboys fans of this generation don’t remember there was a day when this position was manned by some of the best in the league, rather than Oh, No! Cut Him Now and Why, God?

I’m talking Woodson, Thomas Everett, Michael Downs, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris.

(Programming note: I would like to take this opportunity to remind the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters that it’s never too late to do to the right thing and put Harris in Canton where he belongs.)

There may not be a more important position on defense in today’s NFL than safety, and the demands are a bit unfair. The safety has to cover like a corner, and hit like a small linebacker.

The Cowboys need more than just a guy who can play 16 games and make the tackle 15 yards past the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys need plays from the safety position.

Like, I don’t know, maybe an interception. Force a fumble. Recover a fumble. Throw in a pass breakup.

Something other than this fake exchange between Cowboys radio voices Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg: “And coming in to push Hakeem Nicks out of bounds is safety Barry Church. A pickup of 54 yards, and it’s first and goal. That one hurts, Babe.”

“Yeah, it does, Brad, especially because it was third-and-53.”

Since 2008, 10 Cowboys safeties have combined for nine forced fumbles and 15 interceptions.

Since 2008, Ed Reed has forced six fumbles and had 24 interceptions.

“Corners are corners. Safeties are safeties,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin told the media horde on Friday afternoon. “It’s not about scheme.”

Amen, amen and amen.

As it stands now the cast of characters at safety are Church, Will Allen, Danny McCray, J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson, Brandon Underwood and Micah Pellerin.

Magic 8 Ball — shake-shake-shake: Can any of these guys play?

Magic 8 Ball says, “Outlook good.”

Magic 8 Ball — shake-shake-shake: Can any of these guys make a play?

Magic 8 Ball says, “My sources say no.”

Wilcox has played safety at a small college for one year, and Johnson was a rookie last year but was hurt. There is hope because we haven’t seen them.

The fear, however, is that Eric Reid will be better than all of them simply because the 49ers know what they are doing, leaving the Cowboys to miss not the days of Waters, Harris or Woodson but Gerald Sensabaugh.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

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