A Simplified Way of Looking at the Importance of Safety Play

Even with the offseason Acquisitions of Brodney Pool via free agency and Matt Johnson via the draft, the safety positions for the Dallas Cowboys could still be described as lack-luster and the roster is missing a proven play-making safety. Excluding Ken Hamlin's 2007 campaign, that statement could be used to describe Dallas's safeties every year since early in Roy Williams' career.

There isn't any sort of chart or specified point system that can completely and thoroughly evaluate the importance of each position, especially when you consider the diversity of coordinators out there. Each of which has a different mentality on how things should be done. For example, a strong running team like the Ravens probably place a high importance on their lead blocking fullback Vonte Leach and he sees a whole lot of snaps. Other teams, like the Cowboys on opening day last year, might not even carry a fullback on the 53-man roster.

That being said, without getting too into numbers or in depth stats, there's been a very telling trend that leads me to believe that a darn good safety is almost a must in today's NFL.

More after the jump...

I was trying to come up with a way to gauge the importance of a play-making safety (something that the Cowboys are in search of) and then I started going through all the teams that have been to the Superbowl in the past 10 seasons. Almost every single team had a safety on their roster that currently has at least one pro bowl under his belt. Again, something that the Cowboys don't have.


Winning Team PB Safety

Losing Team PB Safety


Antrel Rolle (NYG)

No PB Safety (NE)


Nick Collins (GB)

Troy Polamalu (PIT)


Darren Sharper (NO)

Antoine Bethea (IND)


Troy Polamalu (PIT)

Adrian Wilson (ARI)


No PB Safety (NYG)

Rodney Harrison (NE)


Bob Sanders (IND)

Chris Harris* (CHI)


Troy Polamalu (PIT)

Ken Hamlin (SEA)


Rodney Harrison (NE)

Brian Dawkins (PHI)


Rodney Harrison (NE)

No PB Safety (CAR)


John Lynch (TB)

Rod Woodson (OAK)

*No ProBowls but an All-Pro Selection (Even Better)

Ten years, 20 teams, 17 of which had a ProBowl safety on their roster. That's 85%. A few of the teams had multiple safeties who fit the criteria and the teams that didn't have any had good safeties none the less. New England had Pat Chung last year, the 2007 Giants didn't have anyone too special but made up for it with a dominant defensive line, and the 2003 Panthers had Deon Grant, a well-above average safety in his prime.

A ProBowl selection doesn't necessarily mean that you're a great player, but for the most part it means that you make a lot of plays. The prime example on that table would be Antrel Rolle. He's a guy who has never been considered a great safety but his play-making ability earned him a ProBowl selection.

After compiling the list of names, I went back and compiled all of the 17 players' statistics from the year that each's team was in the Superbowl and averaged them over a 16 game stretch to show what a Superbowl caliber safety should look like, statistically.

The Ideal Superbowl Safety






F Fumbles








Per 16







What really stands out to me in the ideal Superbowl safety is the pass deflections and forced turnovers. The high number of each points to a safety that is always around the ball. That was really missing last year for the Cowboys.

Last season, Abe Elam played more defensive snaps (1050 of 1053) than any other Cowboy. He ended the year with 0 pass deflections and 0 interceptions. Gerald Sensabaugh was second in snaps with 1004 and he ended with 3 pass deflections and 2 picks, both significantly less than what you're looking for in your ideal Superbowl safety.

When I was on each of the 17 players' statistic page, it really popped out how consistently each player put up these numbers while in their prime. Gerald Sensabaugh put up a similar season in 2010 but that was his best year as a pro and the numbers weren't nearly as good last year. The other veteran safety on the roster, Brodney Pool, has never had a season close to the standard that we're working with.

The last safety who had a really great Superbowl caliber year for the Cowboys was Ken Hamlin back in 2007, when he had a staggering 15 pass deflections and 5 picks, on his way to the ProBowl and a huge deal that now seems like a mistake. But when you look at the numbers, Hamlin was playing like a top 5 NFL free safety at the time and I can't really blame Jerry for trying to lock up a guy who he thought could be his ideal Superbowl safety.

The main point that I'm trying to make is that if you look at Superbowl teams, it's almost a proven fact that a really good, not just solid, but a really good safety is a must and you pretty much know that you aren't going to get that level of play from a guy like Sensabaugh or Pool. Both are solid but not playmakers.

If you've been paying attention to all that "window" talk then you might agree it's time, this year, to start ushering in the younger guys like Barry Church, rookie Matt Johnson, and possibly even Danny McCray who's been a special teams standout. From everything that I've seen, it's clear that neither Church nor Johnson are strangers to being around the football.



What I'd like to see ideally is Gerald Sensabaugh starting at strong (where he's played his best football) and then have Church and Johnson rotate starting duties until one of them wins the job, much like Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick did in 2009. There isn't much invested in Brodney Pool, so ideally he'd be a package guy or a solid guy to take over if the young guys crash and burn.

I'm not a mind-reader but I think that's how the Cowboys want it to work-out as well.

Comment And Recommend Please!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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