CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22: Ken Hamlin #26 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures towards the bench during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
With Ken Hamlin's timeline for return officially set at 2-4 weeks, the Cowboys are left to figure out how to replace the former Pro Bowler, who last missed a game in 2005, after a late-night donnybrook on the streets of Seattle led to a stop sign being bashed over the free safety's cranium.
Short answer: Either Pat Watkins or Alan Ball.
Long, thoughtful answer, well, that's obviously not quite as easy. Hamlin has come under heavy criticism from the more "hardcore" fans of late for any number of reasons, the most popular of which seem to be his (a) being out of position too often, (b) missing tackles, and (c) being late in coverage.
Whether or not these claims have any merit, I'll leave to you, the reader; but there's little doubt that Hamlin, along with Gerald Sensabaugh, is a vocal, on-field leader for the secondary--the quarterback, as they say. This is where the team may miss him the most.
"[Hamlin]'s a great player, he was playing well," said Sensabaugh on Monday. "I'm not sure how long he's out, I'm not sure about his injury. He's banged up a little bit, but we'll do a good job of getting a game plan and communicating, I think. We've got a lot of depth, we've got a lot of guys who can play, I man, nobody really gave up any plays, so I think they did well with the guys that came in for substitutions."
Without Hamlin's vocal leadership, Sensabaugh says, it will be key for Dallas to maintain clear lines of communication with whoever his replacement may be, come Sunday.
" I'm real comfortable [with Hamlin], we've been working out since OTAs and watched tape together and stuff and he helped me get the system down pat, along with the coaching staff," Sensabaugh said. "With him down, we've just got to communicate and stay on the same page."