TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 13: Defensive end Marcus Spears #96 of the Dallas Cowboys blocks a second quarter field goal attempt by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
In the first quarter of the season opener in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers lined up for a 39 yard field goal attempt. If good, the shot would tie the game at three. Instead, the new safety found a seam on the left side of the line, shot through it, nearly untouched, and blocked the kick with ease.
For the casual fan, the reaction went something like, "who the hell is Gerald Sensabaugh?"
Three quarters and five more games later, the name rings bells throughout the Metroplex, a result of, among other contributions, the man ringing bells throughout the NFL.
After coming over this off-season from Jacksonville, reuniting with special teams Joe DeCamillis and secondary coach Dave Campo, Sensabaugh has stepped into the sullied shoes of Roy Williams at the strong safety position deftly--and that's to say nothing of his special teams contributions. The North Carolina product has come like a breath of fresh air thus far this season, balancing the ability to lay the wood on an unsuspecting receiver with a keen sense of responsibilities in coverage.
Against Atlanta, Sensabaugh held Tony Gonzalez, widely considered the best tight end in the league today (if not ever) to four catches and 37 yards while delivering a couple of block-rocking hits. Balancing discipline and an inordinate love for crashing against receivers, the rest of the secondary followed Sensabaugh's lead on Sunday, hitting hard, but smart; and covering more consistently than anyone has seen since Darren Woodson was playing football.
What Sensabaugh brings is quiet proficiency; far from being a mere "role player," a term that would belie Sensabaugh's importance to the team, it's unlikely that no. 43 jerseys are flying off the shelves at this point. This shouldn't cloud the fact that the newcomer has become, through six games, the heart of the secondary and, in all likelihood, a priority when it comes to locking up free agents this off-season.
"I mean, I've been here last year when we had a carousel as far as safeties," said Bradie James in the Dallas Morning News Blog. "The year before that, another guy. It's a difference. You can see it. I mean, just look at the plays, the breakups. Just look at how the secondary is playing. Ken [Hamlin] does his job, but Gerald comes in and he really helps everybody.
"He's rarely out of position. With that being said, the other guys know where he's going to be. They can take a calculated risk and make plays.''