December 1, 2011

Sensabaugh, Elam provide safety net for Cowboys

Veterans prove to be solid secondary bargains.

IRVING -- Abe Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh knew of each other before this season, but they didn't know each other. They met Aug. 5, the day Elam signed with the Dallas Cowboys, which was two days after Sensabaugh re-signed.

"I had never had any contact with Abe," Sensabaugh said. "But I'm glad he's here. He's been doing an awesome job back there and playing some good football."

The Cowboys are happy to have both.

As unrestricted free agents, Elam and Sensabaugh signed one-year deals each worth $2.5 million. They were bargains.

"We had limited salary-cap resources, and we targeted a few types of guys at the different positions," coach Jason Garrett said. "We wanted veteran safeties playing for us.... Both those decisions worked out very well for us. They play very well together, and I think they've been big contributors to how well our defense has played throughout this season."

A year after giving up the most points and most yards in team history, the Cowboys rank 12th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed. Sensabaugh is second in total tackles behind linebacker Sean Lee, with 60. He also has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Elam is fourth in tackles with 50 and has one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Sensabaugh has allowed 18 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown, according to STATS, Inc. Elam has given up 14 for 182 yards and a touchdown.

They arguably are the team's best safety tandem since 2003, which was Darren Woodson's last season on the field and Roy Williams' second season in the league.

"I think they're both very good football players," Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo said, "and I think both of them complement our scheme because of the things they do."

Elam, who played for the Cowboys during his rookie season of 2006, was recruited for his knowledge of Rob Ryan's defense. Elam played for Ryan in Cleveland the past two seasons.

Sensabaugh spent hours learning the ins and outs of the scheme from Elam.

"We watched a lot of tape by ourselves during training camp, just talking about football, talking about what Rob expects and how to play in this defense," Sensabaugh said.

Elam is the secondary's quarterback, calling out the signals for the defensive backs, and communicating with the linebackers. That has helped turn Sensabaugh into a more productive player.

"We knew that Sensabaugh is a player, and just getting him back was a big thing for us," Campo said. "We know the guy can do what we want him to do and like him to do. But we also knew if he didn't have to handle all the game stuff, if he could concentrate on what he was doing, he would be a better player. The addition of Abe Elam has helped him to do that."

Elam and Sensabaugh are back where they started when the season ends. Both will be unrestricted free agents again.

Their future is now.

"I think we have a lot to prove," said Elam, who left for Florida on Jerry Jones' private jet Thursday afternoon after his father died. "We definitely believe we're one of the best safety tandems in the league. We go out each Sunday and prove it."

Charean Williams


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