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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Safety is one position Cowboys must fill

By Calvin Watkins

The lockout could end at some point this weekend. Maybe today.

We hope.

In terms of the Cowboys, this team needs help at several positions, and safety is the biggest issue for this team coming out of the lockout.

The two starting safeties from 2010, Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball were inconsistent last year.

Ball was tied for the league lead with seven touchdowns allowed. Sensabaugh, while tied with Terence Newman for the team-lead with five interceptions, struggled at the start of the season. Sensabaugh probably tried to compensate for Ball's weakness.

Ball is being moved back to his natural position of corner and Sensabaugh is an unrestricted free agent. While Sensabaugh would like a fair market deal, finding the right fit in a scheme is important to him.

The Cowboys have some players on their roster who might take over one of the safety spots: Danny McCray, Barry Church, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Andrew Sendejo. Yet those players are unproven.

The free agent market is where the team most likely will get at least one of the two safety spots filled.

A debate rages as to who is the best safety on the market.

Sensabaugh is out there and played 929 snaps last season.

Danieal Manning didn't allow a touchdown last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and out of 925 defensive snaps quarterbacks had a 59.7 quarterback rating against him when throwing in his direction.

There are others such as Quintin Mikell, in which offenses averaged 11.7 yards per catch against him, Michael Huff, who gave up three touchdowns out of 1,009 snaps, Eric Weddle, who allowed 12.7 yards per catch and Abram Elam the former Cowboys special teamer. Let's not forget Dawan Landry and Brodney Pool.

Manning and Elam might have a slight edge over the other safeties on the market. Manning can also return kicks, and Elam has played for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, when he was in Cleveland. Huff might be too expensive, especially with the Cowboys trying to lock up left tackle Doug Free long-term and getting under the $120 million salary cap. The other safeties futures are uncertain.

The Cowboys could go with a veteran at the free safety spot and then get one of the young players, Church possibly, to play strong safety. It seems Ryan would like to blitz more this season, and expects it to come from different spots on the field, and that includes sending corners and safeties.

Last year, the Cowboys pass rush struggled to take some pressure off the secondary. It left corners such as Mike Jenkins and Newman in vulnerable situations. If Ryan can fix the front seven, then maybe adding a younger player at strong safety will be Ok.

But this market for safeties is pretty strong and while the team does need to take care of the left tackle and left guard positions, they can't afford to mess up at safety.