Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dallas Cowboys like what they see in safety Sensabaugh

By David Moore
Denton Record-Chronicle

CARROLLTON – For those with high blood pressure and low tolerance for secondary mistakes, it's not about who starts at strong safety for the Cowboys.

It's about who doesn't.

Roy Williams' departure will be enough for some. Critics pinned everything from division losses to the receding polar ice caps on Williams and his confounding slide from star to liability.

None of this makes Gerald Sensabaugh's job any easier. But it does give the former Jacksonville safety a grace period with fans as he settles in with his new team.

"I'm not really trying to follow Roy," Sensabaugh said. "It's not a competition between me and Roy. I'm not trying to prove that I'm better than Roy or Roy should have done this or that. I thought Roy was a great player.

"I'm just trying to establish my own name. Then, however you guys [media] feel I play, that's how it is."

Sensabaugh has been impressive in these organized team activities. Owner Jerry Jones calls the 25-year-old free agent a key acquisition and says the coaches, "brag on him a lot." Coach Wade Phillips said the speed Sensabaugh brings to the strong safety position gives the secondary the latitude to do some things it hasn't done in recent seasons.

"He looks outstanding," Phillips said. "He really has a lot of ability and is a good worker. He can really cover a lot of ground. You see that real quick with him.

"We feel good about him."

Dave Campo's comfort level with Sensabaugh is high. The Cowboys secondary coach held the same position with the Jaguars and knows what the safety can do.

Campo was never as critical of Williams as others. He will tell you the former Oklahoma star is still a very good football player.

Then, he will tell you about Sensabaugh.

"This guy has got better speed and is a better coverage guy," Campo said. "He's a physical guy and can cover. That gives us a little bit stronger edge at the strong safety position."

Sensabaugh had four interceptions for the Jaguars last season. Williams failed to reach that total in five of his seven seasons with the Cowboys. He rarely took the field on third down in his final days with the club.

Campo said Sensabaugh is versatile enough to play underneath in the team's dime package on third down.

"I don't think it's a mismatch when a team takes a pretty decent tight end and puts him out wide and gets the safety out there," Campo said.

And how does the fifth-year pro stack up against the run?

"He's a good run player," Campo said. "I don't think there's an issue there. I think he's a combination safety and can do them both. He's a solid football player and has strengths in both areas."

The long-term security Sensabaugh sought in free agency never presented itself. He chose the Cowboys over New Orleans and several other teams and signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal.

Sound familiar? Ken Hamlin signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys as a free agent, established himself as the starting free safety then signed a lucrative contract.

"It's a great opportunity," Sensabaugh said. "I'm ready to go. I have the scheme pretty much figured out.

"I'm ready to get into the season and make some plays."

Those who grew disgruntled with Roy Williams through the years are ready to watch.