Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys: Defensive Backs

This is part of the series on the All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys.

Finally getting back to this series, which will now focus on defense. Instead of writing about every individual position, we will focus on sets of positions, starting with defensive back. In ESPN’s poll, the results were very predictable. The two cornerbacks are in the Hall of Fame, while one of the safeties is at least in the Ring of Honor. Here are the results from the ESPN poll:

Cornerbacks

Deion Sanders (79.3%)
Mel Renfro (66%)
Everson Walls (36%)
Terence Newman (8%)
Cornell Green (5.9%)
Kevin Smith (4.7%)

Safeties

Darren Woodson (87%)
Cliff Harris (58.1%)
Charlie Waters (33.2%)
Roy Williams (16.6%)
Michael Downs (5%)

 

As for the approximate value of the defensive backs, here is a complete list:

Rk From To G Pos AV ?
1 Mel Renfro 1964 1977 174 DB 149
2 Cornell Green 1962 1974 182 DB 126
3 Cliff Harris 1970 1979 141 DB 103
4 Darren Woodson 1992 2003 178 DB 99
5 Charlie Waters 1970 1981 160 DB 81
6 Everson Walls 1981 1989 133 DB 78
7 Deion Sanders 1995 1999 63 DB 70
8 Roy Williams 2002 2008 98 DB 65
9 Michael Downs 1981 1988 116 DB 60
10 Terence Newman 2003 2010 119 DB 58
11 Benny Barnes 1973 1982 135 DB 50
12 Mike Gaechter 1962 1969 108 DB 47
13 Bill Bates 1983 1997 212 DB 41
14 Kevin R. Smith 1992 1999 102 DB 40
15 Dennis Thurman 1978 1985 121 DB 37
16 Don Bishop 1960 1965 81 B 35
17 Warren Livingston 1961 1966 67 DB 33
18 Larry Brown 1991 1995 79 DB 31
19 James Washington 1990 1994 77 DB 28
20 Mark Washington 1970 1978 104 DB 27
21 Ray Horton 1989 1992 58 DB 26
22 Mario Edwards 2000 2003 58 DB 24
23 George Teague 1996 2001 71 DB 23
24 Ron Fellows 1981 1986 86 DB 23
25 Aaron Kyle 1976 1979 60 DB 22
26 Anthony Henry 2005 2008 57 DB 22
27 Ken Hamlin 2007 2009 44 DB 22
28 Dextor Clinkscale 1980 1985 71 DB 22
29 Herb Adderley 1970 1972 39 DB 21
30 Issiac Holt 1989 1992 55 DB 20
31 Robert Williams 1987 1992 81 DB 19
32 Brock Marion 1993 1997 71 DB 18
33 Mike Johnson 1966 1969 54 DB 18
34 Keith Davis 2002 2008 84 DB 17
35 Vince Albritton 1984 1990 80 DB 17
36 Mike Jenkins 2008 2010 46 DB 16
37 Randy Hughes 1975 1979 72 DB 15
38 Thomas Everett 1992 1993 27 DB 15
39 Manny Hendrix 1986 1991 89 DB 14
40 Gerald Sensabaugh 2009 2010 31 DB 13
41 Steve Wilson 1979 1981 48 DB 11
42 Obert Logan 1965 1966 28 DB 11
43 Ron Francis 1987 1990 54 DB 11
44 Bob Bercich 1960 1961 18 DB 11
45 Duane Hawthorne 1999 2002 53 DB 10
46 Alan Ball 2008 2010 42 DB 10
47 Charlie Williams 1995 2000 74 DB 9
48 Jimmy Ridlon 1963 1964 21 DB 9
49 Jacques Reeves 2004 2007 60 DB 9
50 Izell Reese 1998 2001 56 DB 9
51 Aaron Mitchell 1979 1980 31 DB 9
52 Tony Dixon 2001 2004 56 DB 9
53 Phil Clark 1967 1969 37 DB 9
54 Pat Watkins 2006 2009 49 DB 8
55 Lynn Scott 2001 2004 60 DB 8
56 Orlando Scandrick 2008 2010 48 DB 8
57 Kenneth Gant 1990 1994 72 DB 8
58 Omar Stoutmire 1997 1998 32 DB 7
59 Kevin Mathis 1997 1999 37 DB 7
60 Dick Daniels 1966 1968 32 DB 7
61 Derek Ross 2002 2003 22 DB 6
62 Jerry Norton 1962 1962 14 DB 6
63 Dick Nolan 1962 1962 11 DB 6
64 Dicky Moegle 1961 1961 14 DB 6
65 Ryan McNeil 2000 2000 16 DB 6
66 Tom Franckhauser 1960 1961 18 DB 6
67 Phillippi Sparks 2000 2000 16 DB 5
68 Victor Scott 1984 1987 38 DB 5
69 Walt Kowalczyk 1960 1960 12 DB 5
70 Pete Hunter 2002 2004 30 DB 5
71 Clayton Holmes 1992 1995 39 DB 5
72 Aaron Glenn 2005 2006 32 DB 5
73 Bill Butler 1960 1960 12 DB 5
74 Richmond Flowers 1969 1970 20 DB 4
75 Ike Thomas 1971 1971 7 DB 3
76 J.D. Smith 1965 1966 28 DB 3
77 Singor Mobley 1997 1999 44 DB 3
78 Kareem Larrimore 2000 2001 19 DB 3
79 Pacman Jones 2008 2008 9 DB 3
80 Nate Jones 2004 2007 47 DB 3
81 Rod Hill 1982 1983 23 DB 3
82 Glynn Gregory 1961 1962 20 DB 3
83 Lance Frazier 2004 2004 12 DB 3
84 Rolly Woolsey 1975 1975 14 DB 2
85 Kenny Wheaton 1998 1998 15 DB 2
86 Dave Thomas 1993 1994 28 DB 2
87 Mickey Pruitt 1991 1992 18 DB 2
88 Willie Pile 2005 2005 16 DB 2
89 Greg Myers 2000 2000 6 DB 2
90 Billy Lothridge 1964 1964 14 DB 2
91 Tommy Haynes 1987 1987 3 DB 2
92 Wendell Davis 1996 1997 28 DB 2
93 Bobby Joe Conrad 1969 1969 8 DB 2
94 Courtney L. Brown 2007 2008 17 DB 2
95 Alundis Brice 1995 1996 25 DB 2
96 Chris Akins 1999 2000 17 DB 2
97 Bryan McCann 2010 2010 9 1
98 Gary Wisener 1960 1960 10 DB 1
99 Tyrone Williams 2004 2004 3 DB 1
100 Roland Solomon 1980 1980 10 DB 1
101 Stan Smagala 1991 1991 8 DB 1
102 John Roach 1964 1964 9 DB 1
103 Beasley Reece 1976 1976 10 DB 1
104 Elvis Patterson 1993 1993 11 DB 1
105 Billy Owens 1988 1988 16 DB 1
106 Jerry Overton 1963 1963 10 DB 1
107 Evan Oglesby 2007 2007 8 DB 1
108 Jim Mooty 1960 1960 7 DB 1
109 Woodley Lewis 1960 1960 6 DB 1
110 Monty Hunter 1982 1982 9 DB 1
111 Carl Howard 1984 1984 10 DB 1
112 Johnny Holloway 1986 1986 16 DB 1
113 Bill Hill 1987 1987 3 DB 1
114 Jimmy Harris 1961 1961 11 DB 1
115 Roger Harper 1996 1996 14 DB 1
116 Michael Hamlin 2009 2009 6 DB 1
117 Alex Green 1987 1987 3 DB 1
118 Dwayne Goodrich 2002 2002 11 DB 1
119 Joe Fishback 1994 1994 12 DB 1
120 Abram Elam 2006 2006 15 DB 1
121 Ricky Easmon 1985 1985 8 DB 1
122 Fred Doelling 1960 1960 2 DB 1
123 Pat Dennis 2001 2001 11 DB 1
124 Barry Church 2010 2010 15 DB 1
125 Scott Case 1995 1995 16 DB 1
126 Otto Brown 1969 1969 14 DB 1
127 Greg Briggs 1995 1995 11 DB 1
128 Jason Bell 2001 2001 16 DB 1
129 Robert Bailey 1995 1995 9 DB 1
130 Jimmy Armstrong 1987 1987 2 DB 1
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2011.

The choices for most underappreciated are mostly obvious, except for one of the safeties. I am not going to run a poll (the plug-in is causing problems), but please feel free to concur or dissent in the comments section.

My choices for underappreciated cornerbacks: Everson Walls and Cornell Green.

Walls led the NFL in interceptions three times and picked off 44 passes in nine years. Only Mel Renfro has more.

For the other corner, I picked Green, the college basketball player who developed into an All-Pro at corner and a Pro Bowl player at safety. His accomplishments dwarf Terence Newman’s.

As for underappreciated safeties, this one is tougher. I’m going with Charlie Waters and Michael Downs.

Once he moved to safety, Waters was one of the best big-game players in team history.

Most would not know that Downs had 34 career picks in Dallas in just eight years. He was a solid replacement at free safety once Cliff Harris retired, but he is somewhat forgotten because of what happened to the Cowboys in the 1980s.

I know that we could consider Roy Williams here, but what started as such a promising career ended in disappointment. Bill Bates, on the other hand, was and is very appreciated, even though he stood out more on special teams.

Honorable mentions: Mike Gaechter, who was one of the most feared hitters in the game; James Washington, for his Super Bowl performances; Dennis Thurman, for giving us Thurman’s Thieves; Benny Barnes, for NOT interfering with Lynn Swann in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XIII; and Larry Brown, for his improbable selection as MVP of Super Bowl XXX.

  • Timothytrump

    I would have to agree with you completely, Matt on your selections, based on the idea of being “underappreciated.” Everson Walls was a ball hawk who was also a decent tackler. First and foremost, he was also a good teammate. If Dallas had one more at the end of his career, I believe he would be a HOF candidate. He should at least be in the Ring of Honor. Regarding Cornell Green, he was one of my favorites and was underappreciated as well, even when he was a current player with Dallas. Most people don’t know that before Harris and Waters teamed up together as dual safeties, it was Green who partnered with Harris. He was often up close on 1st and 2nd down plays to help bolster the run defense.

    I don’t want to take up too much space but I feel Waters was a better player than Harris and is also one of my all time favorites. he was a “coach on the field: and made repeated big plays in the post season. Michael Downs was underappreciated in that he satisfactorily replaced Harris and was valuable enough to play and start for several years for Dalls, even though much of his career was when Dallas was fading in the late 80’s.

  • Jones jr

    Ras I Dowling or Jimmy Smith Cowboys next great CB