For nearly a decade, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been without a safety net.
That should change Thursday night when Jerry Jones and company adds Alabama Crimson Tide strong safety Mark Barron to the roster.
Barron will become, by all indications, the best player at the position since Roy Willams (the young, ferocious-hitting, playmaking variety). He may, in fact, become the best at the position since the great Darren Woodson, the best defensive player on the '90s Cowboys team—the one that dominated a decade.
In his four years at the University of Alabama, Barron recorded 149 tackles. He had 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks and 12 interceptions. He also forced 12 fumbles. He helped Alabama win two national championships.
Barron was an imposing defender at Alabama. He simply looked like a professional, from the way that he prepared and warmed up to his productivity and on-field presence. A stalwart at safety, he has the size and athletic ability to contribute right away in the NFL. He has the range and ball skills to make big plays and is an active defender against the run. Barron projects as a top-50 pick.
Gerald Sensabaugh has manned the position for the Cowboys for the past three seasons. He recorded 158 tackles and eight interceptions during that time, forcing two fumbles and recovering two.
Sensabaugh didn't have the kind of impact blitzing you would want from a man at his position though, recording just two sacks in three seasons.
Of course, if you watched the Cowboys during that three-year period, you know how porous the Dallas defensive backfield was, especially at critical times in close games.
If Barron becomes the professional player he's projected to be, he will be an instant upgrade at a position that has been undermanned for too long.
Charlie Campbell of Walterfootball.com summarizes Barron this way:
When watching Alabama, Barron jumps out and is all over the field. He makes tackles in run support and always seems to be in the right spot in pass coverage. He is a big safety who may be the hardest-hitting player at his position in the 2012 NFL Draft class.
At 6'2'' and 218 pounds, Barron could be the kind of intimidating figure you want at the strong safety position. If he has receivers hearing footsteps, they will be first footsteps they have heard from a Cowboys' safety in a very long time.