The Cowboys have a veteran and a younger player starting at the safeties, and they both express a lot of respect for the man who has been the pre-eminent player at the position for most of his career, the Ravens' Ed Reed.
Danny McCray, in his third NFL season, views Reed -- whom he'll see up close when the Ravens and Cowboys play Sunday -- as the prototype.
When I was coming up, it was like, you mention safety and you hear Sean Taylor and you hear Ed Reed, McCray told dallascowboys.com. He lived up to everything that everybody said about him: always around the ball, great player, smart player. You model your game around anybody, its Ed Reed.
The Cowboys' other safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, is playing in his eighth season, having entered the NFL three years after Reed's rookie season in 2002.
Probably the biggest playmaker Ive seen since Ive been in the league, Sensabaugh said. Hes able to get a lot of turnovers, able to get to the football all kinds of ways, playing the deep middle or just playing different coverages. Hes a turnover machine. Hes always good for eight-plus picks, and thats a goal Ive tried to reach.
As players whose job it is to be around the ball, they recognize how Reed makes his instincts pay off.
His awareness and knowing where the ball is going to be and then finishing the play, McCray said. You see a lot of good players that can get to the ball, but they cant finish the play. He knows where the ball is going and when its in the air he goes and gets it.
And then there is the thing that Ravens fans have seen so often -- how Reed seems to appear from nowhere.
"He knows exactly where the quarterback is going," Sensabaugh said, "and he knows how to hide so the quarterback wont be able to see him then he capitalizes."
But Reed never hides for long.