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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Big Question: Boys in safety squeeze?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

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Have the Cowboys created a problem for themselves by trying to be thrifty?

Alan Ball
Alan Ball is projected to start at safety in place of the recently released Ken Hamlin.
After the way starting safety Ken Hamlin performed in 2009, I don't think a lot of Cowboys fans were broken up about his release. But some of those fans are about to get a reality check when the inexperienced Alan Ball and his projected backup Michael Hamlin take the field in 2010.

Ken (no relation to Michael) wasn't living up to the lucrative contract that he earned after a Pro Bowl season in 2007. He took poor angles and he wasn't a sure tackler. Ball, who converted from cornerback, filled in nicely in '09 but no one knows if he's ready to start for a full season. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has hinted the team might sign a free-agent safety, but the pickings are pretty slim at this point. Saints Pro Bowler Darren Sharper was on the open market for a long time, and now we know why.

The Cowboys should know more than anyone that rolling the dice at safety isn't a good approach. When Darren Woodson was injured before the '04 season, the Cowboys were held hostage by that position. Over the years, they've tried everyone from Keith Davis to Pat Watkins, but things didn't settle down until Ken Hamlin showed up in '07.

Gerald Sensabaugh had a nice season for the Cowboys in '09, but they need another player who's strong in coverage and can call out adjustments. Sensabaugh's at his best when he can simply focus on playing. If the Cowboys are leaning on Ball to get them in the right coverages, there could be some issues. I think he's a talented player, but he's someone better suited for a backup role.

Everyone keeps talking about left tackle, but I think Cowboys fans should be more concerned about safety.