We're taking a look back at the 2012 season by analyzing the work done by all of the Cowboys position groups by themselves. The safeties are up next.
The Players: Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church were the starters when the year began and remained that way until Church was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Danny McCray took over in the starting lineup while Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton joined the team during the season to serve as reserves.
2012 Performance: Church's loss was a killer because he was the only safety who played anywhere close to well during the season. He flirted with being a difference maker in his two full games of the season and things regressed without him to the point that Brandon Carr was shifted to safety for a brief moment.
McCray was totally overmatched and Sensabaugh was perfectly mediocre, which may mean that he actually gets another year with the team to provide some veteran experience. Frampton and Peprah played like guys who were on the street during the season for a reason.
Matt Johnson, a fourth-round pick last April, never got healthy enough to contribute this season, although the Cowboys gave him every chance to get healthy before finally pulling the plug.
Room for Improvement: Everywhere you look, especially now that they're playing Monte Kiffin's Tampa Two defense. There's a space for safeties to be stars in this defense, think John Lynch on the Buccaneers or Bob Sanders on the Colts, and the Cowboys are going to need a player in that vein to make the defense hum.
Sensabaugh's experience looks good in an otherwise callow group, but he's just a guy and sometimes even less than that when it comes to actual performance.
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Chances of Improvement: It's hard to imagine they could wind up with anyone worse than McCray again next year so right there you're operating at a higher level. It's probably not where you go with your top draft pick, but the Cowboys should be able to upgrade on Sensabaugh as well.
Long-Term Outlook: Church's health will determine whether the Cowboys are looking to fill one spot or two, so the outlook's going to remain unclear until he's had more time to recover. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Cowboys go for a veteran with experience in Kiffin's scheme this offseason to help teach the defense.
Conclusion: It's a troublesome situation at safety for the Cowboys, which really isn't anything new. Like the offensive line, the Cowboys have tried and failed for several years to find consistent answers at safety. It's at the top of the list of priorities for the offseason once again.