Jerome Henderson explains what he wants

The Cowboys' secondary drove you crazy last season.

It was inconsistent and its three prime cornerbacks, Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins, were hurt at various times during the season. The safety play from starters Abram Elam and Gerald Sensbaugh was inconsistent, as well. Sensabaugh played with a sprained foot the last two months of the season and was in so much pain, he took a pain injection before games.

The numbers suggest the Cowboys' secondary was not very good. It allowed 57 passes of 20 or more yards, eighth most in the NFL, and Dallas went 0-3 when opposing quarterbacks threw for 300 or more yards. One bright spot was that the Cowboys allowed just eight first downs on third-and-10, the fourth fewest in the NFL.

New secondary coach Jerome Henderson has to work with a secondary that might see significant changes.

Here's what Henderson expects from the secondary: "Guys who will challenge, guys who are tough and guys who play with intelligence -- situational intelligence. And that's one of the things I will really talk to the guys about: having situational understanding of football. There are certain situations where I have to get down on that guy [in] certain situations."

Elam is an unrestricted free agent and it's not known if the Cowboys want to bring him back. Henderson coached Elam in Cleveland for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

"Abe is probably one of the best people I know," Henderson said. "One of the best men, cares about his teammates, cares about football, works his butt off, studies, prepares, competes. He's tough. I love the kid."

The secondary also has Alan Ball, Frank Walker, Mana Silva, Danny McCray and Barry Church.

Who returns is uncertain. The Cowboys could add a cornerback in the draft, maybe in the first or second round, and must prepare themselves if they don't have Jenkins for offseason workouts.

Jenkins underwent shoulder surgery that will keep him out four to six months while rehabbing. He might not be ready until training camp and he could be limited when he returns.

"I'm sure there are guys in place that will be on this team that will be big contributors on this team," Henderson said. "I just don't know the roles and I don't know what I have to do with them to get them to where I want them to be or where they should be."

One thing Henderson has done is start the process of reviewing film of his unit. He's built small lockers in his office of every secondary player on the roster, and when they're involved in a play he takes a clip of it and places it in the small stalls.

Henderson is trying to see if the secondary players are making plays and, if not, he's trying to fix it. Henderson said he's a coach that wants to give his players solutions to their problems if they have any.

"I do know there are a lot of guys who will play a lot of football for the Dallas Cowboys that are already on the roster," Henderson said.