The biggest downside to the Dallas Cowboys win on Monday Night Football was the hamstring issue that befell WLB Sean Lee. Hamstrings can be a lingering issue that need time to heal. On the official injury report, which you can see below, Lee is listed as questionable and hasn't practiced all week.
Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan and CowboysHQ.com confirmed that Lee didn't practice and perhaps more telling didn't meet with the media on Friday, as he usually does.
Sean Lee (ham) DNpractice today, also didn't meet w media as usually does Fri. Both actions suggest down-arrow for #Cowboys game likelihood
So if Lee doesn't play, where do the Dallas Cowboys turn for the snaps at WLB?
In Rod Marinelli's 4-3 scheme, the weak side linebacker is one of the two or three most important positions. Losing a player of Sean Lee's caliber at a position of high importance is a bummer to say the least.
The latest Cowboys injury report is in...
To me it's more likely that starting strong side linebacker Damien Wilson sees the majority of work at WILL if Sean Lee is absence this week. Wilson got some work there during the offseason and training camp during Lee's rest days.
During the offseason, Bryan Broaddus sat down with Shan Shariff and RJ Choppy of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas and had this to say about Wilson. Here is the full transcript of that interview from July.
"But, what they were doing with him was when Sean Lee wasn't practicing, they were playing Damien Wilson as that sub linebacker." "They were getting him ready if something were to happen with Lee. And that's a vital piece." "Their attitude right now is, 'hey, we just need to see how this thing plays out.' And hopefully we don't lose what they would consider a vital piece to their defense coming up in training camp."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
When Bryan Broaddus makes note of it, I do as well. He has excellent insight into the team. It looks like the Dallas Cowboys backup plan at WILL was Damien Wilson at the time.
It's not reasonable or realistic to expect Wilson to step in for Lee and be as effective as the All-Pro linebacker, but he has some ability that can help you make plays.
Elite coverage linebacker.
Pro Football Focus highlighted another NFC East linebacker in the tweet above, but you can't help but notice Damien Wilson's name as well.
In 2016, when he was targeted, Wilson only allowed a passer rating of 67.5. That was the third best among linebackers last year.
If Lee isn't able to play on Sunday, I fully expect to see a lot of Damien Wilson lined up at weak side linebacker. You can't replace or replicate Sean Lee, but Wilson is no slouch. We just don't get to see enough of him because of the limited role of a strong side linebacker in today's NFL. It's certainly possible that veteran Justin Durant sees some time at WLB. That being said, I think Wilson will be the next man up.
We all would prefer to see Sean Lee play, but if he's unable to, this could create an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to see their future at WLB.
With Damien Wilson, that future could be awfully bright.
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstatement Decision Due Soon
The Dallas Cowboys should know by the end of this week if Defensive End Randy Gregory will be reinstated by the NFL from his indefinite suspension.
Gregory, who has missed nearly two seasons with drug-related bans, requested in May for Roger Goodell to allow him to return to football. The exact date of the request isn't known, but multiple sources put it somewhere around May 18-20.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL has 60 days to rule on a reinstatement request. That would put the approximate deadline no later than this Friday, July 20th.
Gregory was a second-round pick for Dallas in 2015. He was considered to have potentially elite pass-rushing skills but red flags about behavior and drug use hurt his draft stock.
Obviously those warning signs were warranted. Over three seasons, Randy has missed 30 out of 48 games due to suspension.
But reports from around the Cowboys organization and others who've dealt with Gregory rehabilitation efforts are positive. His appeal request appears strong, backed up by several testimonials that he's turned his life around.
Will Roger Goodell agree? Will Randy Gregory return to the Cowboys 2018?
We should know the answer soon.
Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL
Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.
Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.
Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.
At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.
From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.
In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.
In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.
As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.
We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.
It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.
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