IRVING, Texas – The talent of the Cowboys defense is giving injured safety Gerald Sensabaugh even more of an impetus to return.
While Sensabaugh said he hates missing games, he hates it even more because the Dallas defense, which is currently leading the league in total defense, is the best he's ever played for.
"I know we still have a lot to prove," Sensabaugh said, "but just the mentality and the guys that we have, and all the blood, sweat and tears we put into this game, this is by far, I think, personally, the best defense I've ever been a part of. So I really want to be a part of it at all costs. I can't wait to get back out there and play."
The Cowboys are allowing just 250 yards of total offense per game. Sensabaugh said it's a result of the collective effort among inspiring coaches, versatile athletes and a mesh of rookie and veteran players who are coming together to create a finished product.
Most importantly, Sensabaugh said this defense is capable of closing out wins in the fourth quarter like no other defense he's been a part of.
"Every year, I've always said we have the makeup to be great," Sensabaugh said, "but I think this year we have the makeup and the personality, we have the coaching, just as a whole, the work ethic. Guys are really taking pride in their work. It's just a different defense for me. Being an eight-year veteran, looking on my past, I played four years in Jacksonville, this is my fourth year here, and I've never seen a group of guys care about each other like this."
Sensabaugh singled out safeties Danny McCray and Mana Silva and nose tackle Josh Brent as backup players who have bought into the system when injured starters leave the field. He said the defense hasn't missed a beat when they've entered the game.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins isn't accustomed to being one of those players coming off the bench. Jenkins fought through a rough offseason filled with criticism, after taking longer than expected to recover from shoulder surgery. But he's got the support of Sensabaugh, who said Jenkins hasn't complained about beginning the season as the fourth cornerback.
With more injuries to the secondary, Jenkins, who batted down a ball intended for Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson last week, now becomes a critical defensive piece and a possible starter again.
"Just to see him out there competing the other night, it almost brings tears to your eyes, just a guy having that much passion for a game," Sensabaugh said. "He's the Mike Jenkins that he was for us when he was a Pro Bowl player and it's great to see guys like that. That's what makes our defense.
"I don't think we've always had players like that, just at all costs, no matter where you are on the depth chart, no matter what it is, whenever you're called upon, you go out there and compete and embrace it with your teammates. It's just a different team. It's just a different defense."
While one cornerback received more snaps last week, another completely switched positions. Brandon Carr, who's played cornerback his entire NFL career and was signed to be a shutdown player at that position, shifted to safety against the Seahawks when Barry Church went down.
Carr said he doesn't mind the change if it'll help the defense. Sensabaugh said it's those kinds of moves that epitomize this year's team.
"I just really want to be a part of this," Sensabaugh said. "I hate to sit out anyways, no year's different for me, but this kind of puts even more of an exclamation point that you really want to be out there playing."