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Can LB Sean Lee Save The Cowboys Defense?

Brian Martin

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Sean Lee Receives High Praise From Pro Football Focus

Defense. Defense. Defense. It has been the point of emphasis in all of the losses for the Dallas Cowboys so far this season and will continue to be so until things change. Things could finally be turning around for the Cowboys defense though now that nearly everyone is healthy and back from their suspensions. The return of Sean Lee should especially improve the performance of the Cowboys D.

The last two games against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers have been especially tough for the Cowboys defense. Both games were in the grasp of the Cowboys, but the defense unfortunately wasn't able to hold up their end of the bargain. It's no coincidence that Sean Lee missed both of those contest due to injury.

In all honesty, it's a little scary to think that the Dallas Cowboys defense depends so heavily on a 31-year-old linebacker that has struggled to remain healthy his entire NFL career, and even college for that matter. But, there is no denying that the defense is an entirely different unit with Sean Lee in the lineup.

Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys bye week couldn't have possibly come at a better time. Sean Lee absolutely needed more time to recuperate from his hamstring injury and the bye week provided that. I believe he will be ready to go against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, which is extremely good news for the Cowboys defense.

But, Sean Lee can't improve the performance of the defense alone. He is only one defender and it takes an entire unit doing their jobs to be successful. It's time for everybody to step up their game.

LB Anthony Hitchens

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Fortunately, the return of Anthony Hitchens last week will also help the Cowboys defense. He will move back to the middle linebacker position and be an upgrade over Jaylon Smith. Nothing against Smith, but he simply isn't ready to be depended on right now as a starter. But, he does show a lot of promise. He just needs more time.

All of the youth in the secondary really needs to step up as well. We have seen improvements and reason to believe they will see the field more on a regular basis. But, each and every one of them needs to become more consistent play after play.

And I don't know about you, but I'm hoping DeMarcus Lawrence can continue to dominate as a pass rusher. That not only helps the young secondary for the Cowboys, but the entire defense as well. He's on pace to break the all-time QB sack record, and I personally hope he reaches that goal.

There is reason to believe that the addition of Sean Lee will improve the overall play on the entire Dallas Cowboys defense, but I don't believe one player holds that much power. It is going to take a collective unit executing and playing together to improve. Fortunately, there is reason to believe they can do just that.

Do you believe Sean Lee can save the Cowboys defense?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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11 Comments
  • Wayne Young

    he won’t save the entire defense but he will help improve it dramatically, especially against the run. The numbers don’t lie, he is probably the best linebacker in the league against the Run. The last 2 weeks proves that. Plus, the Cowboys haven’t been healthy on the defensive side of the ball all year. Let’s see what they can finally do with everybody back.

    • Brian Martin

      Wayne, I completely agree. Sean Lee is certainly going to help improve things, but the entire defensive unit really needs to step up. Hopefully now that everybody is healthy and back from suspensions we see a much improved defense.

  • Hobbes49

    No question Lee returning is of major significance. He allows HItchens to go back to MLB and gives us our strongest LB potential. Two extra weeks should be good for everyone on the defense. The young DB’s get more practice time, Hitchens and Lee get back to speed, Irving gets more time under his belt. The other thing I hope for is continued growth, with less pressure from Jaylon Smith. Also, could these two weeks be a chance for Taco to work out some kinks and become more of a factor. I am also wishing for the staff to see the error of their ways and get Jeff Heath out of the starting line up. I would love to see more of Xavier Woods and Chido at the safety position. I wonder if maybe the two of them could be the future at safety and maybe Byron Jones goes back to CB. Maybe he would be better able to reach his potential there instead.

    • Brian Martin

      Everything you said is exactly why the bye week is so important. The only thing I really disagree with this moving Byron Jones to CB. I think people underrate what he does, but that’s understandable. He already plays a flex S/CB position. I think a lot of fans want to replace him because they don’t really see how making plays on the ball.

      • Hobbes49

        I don’t necessarily disagree with your opinion about Byron Jones. It is entirely possible if he gets a stronger partner to play with at the safety position that his playmaking abilities will become more apparent to us so I’m okay with him staying at safety. it was really just a thought about moving him to cornerback

        • Brian Martin

          You’re not off-base at all. Jones plays a flex position where he plays a lot of safety and corner. I think if the Cowboys could surround him with some more talent, we would see more of his playmaking ability

          • Michael Barthel

            I do not disagree with moving Jones to corner I think he is right. Jones plays better as a corner than he does safety. Also awuzie and woods at safety with Jones brown and lewis at corner would make a respectable secondary. Then Irving Collins and taco make a decent line to build off of. Smith Hitchens and Wilson make a very young and decent linebacking core. Dallas will draft a receiver but I think they go after safety linebacker and corner in the draft maybe defensive line as well. This is all considering Lawrence doesn’t come back

  • Russ_Te

    I always saw Jaylon Smith as an OLB at the pro level, and Lee a MLB. But I defer of course to what the coaches see. Lee is a wrecking ball when healthy as an OLB, no disputing that.

    This defense is weak at SS and I would – love – to see Smith try it. He had a long run in pursuit against the Rams, that really showed his straightline speed. I think it’s mostly back.

    If Smith can play SS, he would terrorize receivers.

    • Brian Martin

      When studying Smith, I saw a player that could play any LB position. I never really saw him as an SS though. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the player that I studied at Notre Dame yet. He’s not moving around well yet and is really struggling when he’s asked to play sideline to sideline. His straight-line speed looks like it’s back though. He just doesn’t look right to me and I’m hoping he just needs more time to recuperate/develop.

      • Russ_Te

        These position moves are always a dice roll. I remember the late 1980’s when Mark Tuinei was a DL’er under Landry. He got moved to LOT, I believe out of need. Then Jimmy Johnson turned him into one of the best LT’s.

        So I like speculating about it when there is a team need. Randy White, famously was drafted at LB size and his first year was an attempt at MLB. He never caught on to the job. So he bulked up in the offseason, moved to DT, now in the Hall.

        There was worry to start the year that Smith was being rushed into service. I’m not sure. I see the speed, but it might still be lateral movement problems, or MLB is not his spot.

        Assuming a full recovery, another issue is whether he should ever come out of the game. I want to use him in blitz packages, no matter if from LB, SS, wherever.

        • Brian Martin

          I believe Smith will still receive plenty of playing time. He needs to get on the field more to help with his development, but he’s simply not ready to receive starting repetitions. And you’re right, position moves are always a roll of the dice. I’m not against using Smith as a SS. I just don’t see the movement from him yet required to play the position. I personally would be surprised to see him line up as a DE in some passing situations. I think I’ve already seen him do that once this season.

Star Blog

Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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