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Can LB Sean Lee Save The Cowboys Defense?

Brian Martin



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.

  • 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 Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

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Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

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