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Will Hamlin's return help or hurt?

12/16/2009

IRVING, Texas -- I can't help but wonder whether Ken Hamlin's return from a high ankle sprain is good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys.

Have the Cowboys missed Hamlin at all the last month?

Hamlin's lack of playmaking at free safety was a problem for the Cowboys' defense. Ball has more passes defensed (4) than Hamlin (3) in about half the playing time. Ball has better range and quickness than Hamlin.

The question with Ball, a converted cornerback, was whether he could tackle well enough to start at safety. He had a memorable missed tackle on a long run by Washington Redskins RB Rock Cartwright, but it hasn't been a consistent problem. Plus, it's not as if Hamlin had been tackling well before his injury.

Wade Phillips believes Hamlin's veteran savvy will help against the New Orleans Saints, who use a ton of different formations and force defenses to adjust on the fly. That might be true, but it's a safe bet that a free safety who hasn't made many plays since 2007 and is coming off a month-long layoff will be a target for Drew Brees.