After a four-week wait, Sean Lee made his way back onto the field for the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants Sunday afternoon. His return added a much-needed spark to the defense, but it might just have helped the Cowboys stumble onto something that could help them down the road.
Intentional or not, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t ask Sean Lee to overdo it in his first game back after suffering his second hamstring injury of the 2017 season. I’m sure they were probably playing it by ear to see how he responded, but monitoring his snap count proved to be beneficial for him and the rest of the Cowboys linebackers.
I’m going to call this the “less is more approach” and it’s something that I think the Dallas Cowboys should continue to incorporate at the linebacker position for the remainder of the season. It should hopefully help Sean Lee remain healthy, while also keeping all of the LBs as fresh as possible throughout the game.
We all know how important Sean Lee is to this team on the defensive side of the ball and how production dips without him in the lineup. The Cowboys have needed to address this for a while now, but they may have stumbled on the perfect solution… a rotation.
Against the New York Giants Sunday afternoon, Rod Marinelli rotated the linebackers and it seemed to pay off in a big way. Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens production particularly skyrocketed.
Sean Lee finished the game against the Giants with 18 total tackles (10 solo), 1 pass defensed, and 1 interception. But, Anthony Hitchens wasn’t far behind. He finished the game with 14 total tackles and one forced fumble. Together they combined for 32 total tackles, which is simply amazing!
I honestly believe that this production stems from the rotation, whether it was intentional or not. We already knew that Anthony Hitchens and Jaylon Smith would be splitting reps, but having Sean Lee take a few plays off here and there may end up being something we see on a regular basis.
Now, Sean Lee still played more than any Cowboys LB against the Giants, playing 82% or 66 of 80 possible defensive snaps. But, it didn’t limit his production the least bit. In fact, I would argue that it actually helped him.
Anthony Hitchens played the second most defensive snaps among the Cowboys LBs playing 59 of 80 (74%) followed by Jaylon Smith, who played 30 snaps (38%). And, they all had fantastic games, even though they all rotated in and out.
So you see, the Cowboys may have stumbled into something that should help benefit all of their linebackers. If nothing else, it should at least help keep Sean Lee healthy. At least, that’s what we’re all hoping anyway.